Desert Center by Guantanamo Baywatch on Suicide Squeeze Records

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

This is so satisfying. A little surf punk, Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, and some Cramps talks to the make up of this trio from Portland, OR. This is old and totally new at the same time. I am captivated by every note and every beat. This is listed as alternative, not alt-country, just alternative. This is country folks. Don’t let the alt moniker fool ya’. One of the best albums of the year. I said it. Well, I wrote it.

Just when I think I had their sound in a nice little package and tied with a bow, they threw me a curve. Yes, a nice bender that is practically unhittable. That is how I describe Blame Myself (Track 7). Guantanamo Baywatch went from a mix of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to a mix of the other Elvis (Costello) and Dinosaur Jr. It is totally old rock and roll and country with the balls of punk rock. The song is brilliantly rough around the edges which really adds to the appeal of this number. The more I listen, the more I love.

I like a good surf rockabilly number if it is done well and with precision. Look no further than Witch Stomp (Track 6). They are as precise with their playing as a diamond cutter. When it comes to instrumental surf classics, you got Walk Don’t Run, Misirlou, and Wipe Out, among others. I am not going to say that Witch Stomp belongs in that category just yet, but it certainly has the potential. It is a totally new melody and a bit of an updated sound.

As long as I am on the subject of surf instrumentals, let’s analyze Area 69 (Track 8). This number is pure surf psychobilly bliss. It is B Movie sci-fi and/or horror. And it is glorious. The melody is new and very innovative and should be played loud and proud. One of the best instrumentals I have heard and really enjoyed in ages. 

Well, this review was an accident. I wasn’t planning to write this because I didn’t know anything about Guantanamo Baywatch. Now I do, and I am fortunate that I ventured out of the country/Americana wing to explore a little alternative. Whether you call them country or alternative doesn’t take away any of music credit they deserve. This band has got it going on and this album proves it!

Listen and buy Desert Center on Bandcamp

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