August 1st, 2017 | Album reviews

Desert Center
Suicide Squeeze

Surf music usually conjures up images of bikini-clad teeny wahinis, tiki lounges, and, you know—an actual body of water. The desert where you first farted in front of your girlfriend (True story, ask frontman Jason Powell) doesn’t typically come up as inspiration for a record of Ventures-esque thrashers. Then again, Guantanamo Baywatch isn’t your typical surf band. Take the grunge-tinged “Blame Myself,” a self-loathing ballad caught between Golden Oldies and Weezer, or the giddy “Video” which turns a rubber-band bass riff from Chevelle Wiseman and Chris Scott’s galloping drums into the best song you’ve ever heard about sex tapes. With the soulful “Neglect” they even take on on 60s R&B, spelling out “N-E-G-L-E-C-double-T” until they’ve crafted their own version of the Beatles’ “You’re Going To Lose That Girl.” Those looking to live out their own Endless Summer will be satisfied by the five (yes, five!) instrumental tracks, the best of which are the menacing “The Scavenger” and the sure-to-create-a-mosh-pit “Area 69.” Both sound thrilling and dangerous, like big-wave surfing, or the sight of a shark fin slicing through glassy water. But no matter how harrowing things get, Powell’s guitar always comes in to save the day and ride, ride, ride the wild surf—with plenty of “Miserlou” warble. Off-kilter, kitschy, and nothing but salty, greasy fun, Desert Center is kinda like the scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where he desperately grooves to “Tequila” in a biker bar. It’s surreal, atomic age fun that’ll make every eye-patched Satan’s Helper dance.

—Madison Desler