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Monday, September 4, 2017

The Chantays: Next Set


1) Killer Dana; 2) Bailout At Frog Rock; 3) Baja; 4) Pipeline; 5) Mr. Moto; 6) El Conquistador; 7) South Swell; 8) Hot Doggin'; 9) Blunderbus; 10) Riders In The Sky; 11) Penetration.

Considering the date, one could almost certainly ascribe The Chantays' decision to reconvene and release yet another album thirty years after their previous one to the surf-rock revival instigated by Pulp Fiction. But nope — actually, the slight resurgence of interest in Dick Dale and his fol­lowers took place already before Tarantino's project hit the mass conscience on a nuclear scale, and The Chantays, explaining that they were simply resuming the original smooth course that was so rudely interrupted by the British Invasion, got together in early 1994; by the time Pulp Fiction hit the theaters, the new album had already been circulating for several months.

Well, perhaps «circulating» is too heavy a term, because the guys could not even ensure proper distribution: labeled as «A Chantay Production», it was self-released on CDr and distributed at their live shows (and later, could be ordered on-line through their website). For some reason, the platter was tagged as «recorded live», though a more proper tag would be «recorded live in the studio» (somewhere in Dana Point, California): apparently, it was important to show that even after all these years, the original Chantays could still proudly hold it together as a tight, energetic, groovy surf-rock outfit. Which, sure enough, they did.

Even laying aside the question of true surf-rock relevance in the mid-Nineties, though, Next Set suffers from the usual problem shared by most oldies acts: they still have to remind old and young listeners alike of what it is that made them cool in the first place — so expect a healthy share of re-recordings of the classics; and they are so deeply rooted in the past that the best they can do is offer a few variations on the same classics — so meet the new songs, same as the old songs. No fewer than four songs are recycled here from Pipeline, including ʽPipelineʼ itself; and they also pay friendly homage to some of their early competitors, covering The Bel-Airs' ʽMr. Motoʼand The Pyramids' ʽPenetrationʼ.

One big change for the better is, of course, the advantage of modern production: as The Chantays get themselves precisely into the mindset of 1963, yet profit from thirty more years of technolo­gical advances, I can wholeheartedly recommend these versions of ʽEl Conquistadorʼ and ʽRiders In The Skyʼ over their predecessors. But there is also one big change for the worse, which some­how got sidetracked in the few press releases and interviews that I've seen connected with the Chantays revival: original keyboard player Rob Marshall is no longer involved with the band, and instead of replacing him, The Chantays prefer to go with no keyboards whatsoever — depriving themselves of the key ingredient of their classic sound. ʽPipelineʼ without the keyboards just ain't properly pipelinish, you know? Replacing the cool, wobbly, almost psychedelic electric piano solo with just another echo-laden clean electric guitar passage is a cheap substitute.

As for the new compositions, all of them are strictly and loyally in the classic surf-rock idiom and even sport strict and loyal titles: ʽKiller Danaʼ (referring to a large wave), ʽBailout At Frog Rockʼ (referring to a near-fatal accident), ʽSouth Swellʼ, well, you know. The best main theme is pro­bably on ʽHot Doggin'ʼ, with a crisp, quasi-grinning little riff, one of these quirky little beasts that goes well with pulling all sorts of faces onstage; however, the dialog between the high-pitched fugue and the low-pitched grumbly response on ʽKiller Danaʼ is also an amusing melodic find that shows the guys still have enough strength to work productively within the surf formula — and Bob Welch is still able to support them with top-notch drumming.

All in all, fans of classic surf-rock might be delighted to scoop up this addition to the catalog as long as it is still being sold on the Chantays website. This is very strictly one side of the Chantays, a straightforward nostalgic gift to all those who, unlike the late Jimi Hendrix, want to hear surf music again — but it is their best side, and, frankly speaking, what else would we have them do in 1994? A doo-wop cover of ʽSmells Like Teen Spiritʼ?..


  1. Well, someone got close..

  2. And even closer...