In the majority of cases, the music of an album comes before the album’s artwork – this isn’t a convention Los Plantronics have stuck to with their new album, Surfing Times. Despite being convinced they couldn’t play like an authentic surf band, when they received Rick Griffin-esque piece of artwork from UK artist Johnny Stingray, they decided to work with it, keep the title and record an album around it; these original factors remain as the cover art and album title. Speaking of the writing process, the band said, “we really put our heart & soul into it; sat down on their Mexican beach blanket and re-arranged six tunes from the golden area and wrote six new ones to fit the project.”
Though the album is essentially a surf one, especially when you look into some of the classics covered, there’s a new take on the style that ranges from garage to R’n’B. Opening From Mecca To Mescalito has the frantic sound you would expect, whilst still only being a stone’s throw from ska at points and comic chase-scene backing at others. A rendition of The Gamblers’ 1960 instrumental Moon Dawg follows, another atmospheric blast sitting at under two minutes.
There’s a Presley-esque swagger to the vocals of Mary Lou that then descend in the tightly arranged instrumentals the nine-piece outfit are so smooth at working together to forge. Showing off their attention to detail in the many layered instrumental Golden Dawn Surf Patrol, the almost-four-minute number finally gives something to more thoroughly sink your teeth into, with swinging undertones and a classic movie sound.
Psychedelic influences begin to become present in El Jeffe, which are then extended in a mariachi rendition of Gene Clarks’ So You Say You Lost Your Baby. Trust me when I say this is one of those songs you have to hear to believe, with the strange juxtapositions somehow fitting together.
Again, the ska influences are played upon as the album’s second side begins with Zapatista Surfista, also featuring a drum solo and drifts into the Tex-Mex sounds the band like to entertain. If the album wasn’t already film-soundtracky enough, here is where it takes a sharp turn towards the genre instrumental Shawnee and snowball momentum (and beautifully titled) Monetzuma’s Revenge sandwich another swagger filled number with Red Hot.
Penultimate T For Terror touches on the whirl of psychedelia and closing Shortnin’ Bread Pt. II (a follow-up to James Whitcomb Riley’s early 20th century work via. The Beach Boys) plunges full-on into the grungey garage sound the album had previously teetered around.
It’s certainly a roller coaster. No two tracks are the same in the slightest, and cramming so much variety into a twelve track album couldn’t have been done with a band any less talented. Sure, it’s not going to be for everyone, but I promise the only reason for that will be people who don’t like the genre(s); rock ‘n’ roll, Tex-Mex, grunge, psychedelia, and of course surf fans are bound to love this.
You can listen to Shortnin’ Bread below.