Search This Blog

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Chantays: Pipeline


1) Pipeline; 2) The Lonesome Road; 3) Tragic Wind; 4) Runaway; 5) Blunderbus; 6) Banzai; 7) Sleep Walk; 8) Night Theme; 9) Wayward Nite; 10) El Conquistador; 11) Riders In The Sky; 12) Last Night.

Few, if any, surf rock instrumentals have managed to achieve life everlasting, but as good as ʽMiserlouʼ and ʽWipe Outʼ might sound, ʽPipelineʼ probably has the best chance to outlive them all. While the typical surf instrumental was supposed to be loud, cheerful, and optimistic, a musi­cal celebration of sun, waves, youth, and happiness, The Chantays went for a slightly more... introspective approach. The loudest instrument here is the rhythm guitar, spilling out dark bass notes in unison with the bass proper — a precursor to the heavy metal paradigm, you might say — whereas the lead part is quietly and inobtrusively wobbling in the background, along with an almost lulling electric piano (quite a novelty for the typical surf band). All over the song's measly two minutes, you get not so much a sense of cheerful exuberance as a feel of «dangerous beauty», inviting you to sit back and carefully take in the sounds rather than straightforwardly dive into them with complete recklessness.

It may be funny, indeed, but the song that most closely resembles ʽPipelineʼ in spirit, the way it feels to me, is no less than The Doors' own ʽRiders On The Stormʼ — and I would not be in the least surprised were I to ever learn that the sound of ʽPipelineʼ somehow influenced, perhaps even subconsciously, Ray Manzarek's and others' vision for ʽRidersʼ. The steady bass rhythm, the sound effects, the quiet electric guitar, and, most importantly, the huge role that the soothingly ominous electric piano plays for both songs, all of this counts. (Not coincidentally, another song on the Pipeline album is called ʽRiders In The Skyʼ, although this was a tune covered by just about anybody in the early Sixties, from Dick Dale to The Ramrods etc.). It is not even very clear why the tune became such a big hit, what with its mood so pensive and worried and with the skies so visibly cloudy instead of filled with sunlight — but perhaps it was the very novelty of the approach that made people pay surplus attention to the vibe.

Unfortunately, The Chantays never properly managed to capitalize upon the success of the song, missing a good chance to become the chief competitors for The Ventures. Not for sheer lack of talent or professionalism, though, as is well evidenced on their first LP — predictably titled Pipeline after the big hit, it features eleven more instrumentals, many of them written by the band members themselves (most importantly, Brian Carman and Bob Spickard on guitars) and all of them sounding quite nice, with quirky use of reverb on rhythm guitar and fairly maniacal drum­ming from Bob Welch on most of the numbers. The only problem is that they never manage to outshine ʽPipelineʼ — when they are trying to play something like it, they end up with pale sha­dows, and when they are trying to move away from it, they lose direction.

The record is well worth a visit, though, because there's enough diversity and quirkiness here to provide for proper entertainment. ʽThe Lonesome Roadʼ, for instance, joins its minimalistic melancholic riff with the main melody of ʽMoney (That's What I Want)ʼ, played on electric piano, before piano player Rob Marshall tires of it midway through and switches to a more cheerful rockabilly solo — after which the theme of ʽMoneyʼ never properly resurfaces again. ʽTragic Windʼ does a bit of Beethoven plundering, and we're not even in the disco era yet. ʽBlunderbusʼ is prime rockabilly with Bob Welch at his filling best, and ʽEl Conquistadorʼ dutifully pays its Latin dues, because how could a good Californian instrumental band live and not be influenced by the Mexican scene? And while the slow sentimental shuffles (ʽSleep Walkʼ, ʽNight Themeʼ) are not at all different from the typical slow teen dance numbers of the era, the lead guitar on the former and the piano on the latter are quite pretty.

Of course, if not for the title track, none of this would be sufficient motivation to give the album a thumbs up. But in a way, having these quirky semi-original compositions fill up the rest of the space was a better deal for them than to rely on covers of well-known hits (their version of ʽRun­awayʼ is absolutely nothing special) — so there's nothing wrong in going for the entire album if you ever get a chance (it did have a CD release, and is obviously not difficult to find these days as a digital download).

1 comment:

  1. Metal would have be a wholly American invention, derived straight from surf...if that pesky British Invasion hadn't got in the way. Kids would have focused on chops & speed until happy thrash music came about. Parents and community leaders would voice their concerns over this aggressive rock music that grew nastier and nastier & we'd be at more or less the same point with it today.
    At least that's what I'll think until time travel comes about to prove me wrong.
    As for this record, it A: suffers from the same single/filler ratio most 60s lps do, and B: demonstrates most surf music is really quite mellow...driven, but cool-headed, man.

    It would take a bit of a revival with punk & metal informed folk to give us a slew of surf trying to recreate Dick Dale's version of "Miserlou"

    Now what would a surf revival have been like if Quentin hadn't got in the way?