Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake - Modern Surf Classics (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake

Modern Surf Classics (2015)

Swami Records

It is fairly safe to say that releasing an instrumental surf rock album in the year 2015 is more a labor of love than a means towards acquiring money or notoriety. John Reis, revered member of such legendary bands as Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes, and Drive Like Jehu, has teamed with Minnesota's the Blind Shake to release such an album, and while it certainly won’t return surf rock back to its glory days, Modern Surf Classics is a fine collection of 13 surfy songs that run the gamut of the genre which, it turns out, is a surprisingly versatile gamut after all.

Sounding like the tripped-out soundtrack to a 60’s surf movie, Reis injects a bit of Hot Snakes-like dissonance to the sound, lending the album a darker, more modern twist. It is not hard to imagine many a bikini-clad 60’s babe doing the Bat watusi to songs such as “Kooks on the Face” or “Beach Leech”, but Modern Surf Classics is not so confined by the genre’s limitations that the songs feel too predictable or tired. Highlighted by chirping keyboards, the occasional wailing of a tenor saxophone, and the trademark grinding of reverb-heavy guitar strings, John Reis & the Blind Shake dip their beaks into sounds ranging from Middle Eastern to mariachi, all the while sticking close to the sonic image of blue waves crashing on golden beaches. Throughout, a certain punk rock ethos is evident, in both sound and attitude--Reis and company are doing exactly what they want, and aren’t particularly concerned if the masses are on board with it or not.

While I do not foresee a surf rock revival exploding into existence on the back of Modern Surf Classics, it is a solid experimentation with a classic sound, with just enough fresh ingredients in the recipe to keep it from going down stale. The inherent lack of vocals, as well as the overall old-fashioned stylings, will undoubtedly be a turnoff for many with short attention spans, but for those looking to kick back and soak in the tasty, sunny vibes, Swami John Reis & the Blind Shake have created an album worth a listen.