With such a sophisticated name you can be fairly sure of what you're getting into here. Complex compositions, artsy meanderings and a crisp, perfected production style are definitely not the focus for The Bad Beers
. However, the pleasant surprise is that the frat-boy antics one might expect are also kept to a minimum, allowing for the power of the surf guitar to come through largely unblemished.
Although The Bad Beers
are now a full-fledged 4 piece surf-rock act, Zombies from Beyond the Surf
is mainly the work of Vancouver's Ruben Von Zuben. Acting as the bass player, guitarist and vocalist (on the three songs that have vocals), Zuben has a definite aesthetic in mind throughout most of the album. This is not the surf music of Jan and Dean
or The Beach Boys
. Even the Ventures
are miles away from what The Bad Beers
are bringing to the table. The flavour of choice here is rapid-fire, staccato picking in the style of surf-guitar hero Dick Dale
. From the first notes of lead-off track "Killer Wave" it is clear that Zuben likes it fast and rough around the edges with an emphasis on raw power over the clean or reverb-drenched twang commonly associated with the surf genre. In this sense The Bad Beers
are more of a garage-punk/surf hybrid than a purist's definition of a surf band. This becomes increasingly evident near the middle of the CD where the surf sound is dropped almost entirely in favour of a basic garage-punk structure complete with vocals. These three tracks; "Evil Doer Surf", "Paranoid Love", and "Skate" (which is about skating on ice!....how much further removed from the beach can you get?) almost seem to be leftovers from Zuben's tenure in some other group from years past. This is not to say that they are not enjoyable; in a way they add an element of variety to Zombies from Beyond the Surf
, but by lumping all three in a row right in the middle of the disc it ends up coming off like a split record instead of a unified, cohesive album.
Another weak spot on Zombies from Beyond the Surf
is the drumming. Recorded at a transitional period for the band, two different drummers are present on the CD, which (along with Zuben being forced to use studio overdubs) may be responsible for the lack of rhythmic inspiration behind the kit. Though the songs aren't ruined by poor drumming, they are never fully brought to life and the transformation beyond the use of the drums as a mere timekeeping device rarely occurs. Though creativity and technique are the basis of this limitation, there is also something to be said for the lo-fidelity aspect of the album playing a role. The main problem revolves around Zombies from Beyond the Surf
being mastered far too loudly. A definite distortion makes its presence known throughout the disc and especially affects the snare drum in terms of a harsh clipping occurring. With everything being pushed so far into the red it is often hard to hear the subtleties of any fills, rolls or dynamic breaks being played.
Where the lo-fidelity production of Zombies from Beyond the Surf
is a drawback in terms of the mastering volume, the absence of polishing adds a definite character to the atmosphere of the album. By keeping the sound raw and loose, the "garage-y", Dick Dale
inspired aesthetic of The Bad Beers is brought to the fore and lets the band show its true strength. Because of this, tracks such as "Spin and Roll" and "Condition Black" sound as if they were recorded in the 60's, giving the music a feeling of authenticity and primitivity. The only concern is that on future recordings The Bad Beers
may opt for a more polished sound; leaving the music empty, like a pale imitation of an era long gone by. For now though The Bad Beers
are ripping it up and Zombies from Beyond the Surf
is a testament to that.
By Bruno Mazzotta
Aug 31, 2007