David Thomas And Two Pale Boys - Surf
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David Thomas And Two Pale Boys
Surf's Up!

David Thomas has been on the music scene since roughtly 1975 when he founded the group Pere Ubu. In that time, he's influenced countless other artists and now he's back with another genre-bending group that will probably have a lot of people scratching their heads (and have others completely lapping things up). As one may guess from the title of the group, it is indeed a trio and while David Thomas sings and works the melodeon, Andy Diagram (of several different groups, including James) loops his trumpet work through radio recievers, echo machines, and delays while Keith Moline (also of several different groups) adds even more layers to things through a midi guitar setup.

If you're confused by the above explanation, actually listening to the recording probably isn't going to clear things up a lot for you either unfortunately. Thomas not only has a very recognizable voice (which some will no doubt find annoying) that he isn't afraid to use in strange intonations while the trumpet and guitar work (as well as a bunch of other instruments) layers up behind everything at various speeds and volume levels, creating sort of a wheezy avant folk that is surprisingly friendly most of the time (and absolutely shines in others).

One of the interesting things about the album is that most of the songs don't follow a typical structure at all. They start at one point and then sort of weave and wind and layer and skid until they reach an ending, whether they're 4 or 9 minutes long. Upon first listen, it's a bit disconcerting because there is absolutely no familiarity. Things are changing all the time and there's rarely a chorus to fall back on. The first track "Runaway" starts out in just such a manner and after a bit of looped vocals and a bit of plucked guitar, a thicker guitar comes in behind more layered vocals before things just sort of break down about halfway through. Eventually, the guitars make their way back in with some horns and things wind down. The craziest part is that it's the shortest track on the release.

"Man In The Dark" moves along with what sounds like a wheezy accordian, as well as all kinds of layered and pitch-bent trumpet work paired with some mellow guitars. Thomas croons and wails over it all like usual and it just sort of limps along at the same pace for its entirety. The mid point of the album finds two long tracks back to back and they're some of the better ones on the release. While the title track "Surf's Up" actually moves at more of a lullaby piece (not exactly worth the exclamation point of the title), "River" is a 9 minute track with lots of schizophrenic horns and some excellent cut-up electronic textures and jangling western guitars that make it the most interesting listen on the disc.

Really, Surf's Up! is quite a strange release that sounds sort of like a long jam session with tons of interesting textures and players. It encorporates everything from ambient to surf to experimental, but it actually works quite a lot (unless you're turned off by Thomas' somewhat weird vocals). There are so many strange textures and pieces to the 8 song release (which spans just under an hours time) that you'll be finding new things on several subsequent listens, and one that really does defy classification, despite me trying to put it into one.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00