By Brian Tucker
The Carvers’ second release, the full length Surf and Stomp Combo, really runs the bases and back to the dugout. A wide assortment of surf rock music, the album in actuality feels like a greatest hits collection of music from a band that’s been around a long time. The Carvers have actually been making and playing music for about three years in Wilmington.
But with the new album The Carvers seem adamant about reaching back in time (the mid 50s and early 60s) and bringing that music forward while also giving it edge. Released by Carolina Beach record label Doctor Gone Records (who also released their first album, the much rawer but equally fun In Person! two years ago), The Carvers have made a record that sounds like it was pulled from your parent’s record collection. Built around original material and some cool covers, the band has hit on a variety of moods and atmospheres.
The album opens with “Casbah-Lou” that’s a combination of a Dick Dale & the Del Tones tune (“Misirlou”) and Richie Polodor’s “Casbah.” It’s a smart, guttural opening that signals right from the beginning what you’re getting. From the snarling, blistering guitar work to its on-the-hunt drumming, “Casbah-Lou” hits the ground running. It’s coupled later on with a cover of Lou Josie’s “The Fugitive,” dealing it with horns that breathe nice and heavy and crisp guitar playing evoking U2’s The Edge doing surf rock.
Original instrumentals from the band really cook, be it the smoky, noir-flavored and sax driven “Over the Falls” or the driving, spy themed “Stand Down.” The circling guitar on the chorus sounds like a mash-up of The Beatles and The Beach Boys and the keys on it are like what you’d hear at a spooky carnival. It’s a great tune but perhaps the best is “Night Surf,” an instrumental that easily suggests island night life but with a strong hint of danger. Between rippling, reverberating guitar lines and nasty sounding horn playing, it’s like mood music made for a detective thriller.
There are some solid songs to be found too. The 50s flavored “Juanita,” is a horn heavy tune, one that likes to strut and boasts cat-call back-up vocals and steady, kicking backbeat. Also in that category is “Hands off that Girl,” a catchy tune with thick keys that probably didn’t need horns after all. The best song may be “It’s You” with short-breath lyric delivery and spitfire chorus. Painted superbly with crunchy, grinding guitar and drumming that never lets up, the song has roots in the 60s but has the punch of The Kinks and punk fervor running through it.
Surf and Stomp Combo is a summer album, not because its surf rock music, but because there’s not a bad song on it (okay, maybe the band probably didn’t needed a theme song with “Carvers Man”). The album peels off like one you discover at a young age and realize later on it’s been playing repeatedly in the car. It might resonate more with surfers or an older surf crowd, but the ageless sound fits in today without much baggage or raised eyebrows. I’m beating around the bush – the album just sounds cool, and that’s it. But then again, this type of music always has sounded cool.