"Waiting for the Tide"
For an instrumental rock band, you'd think it would all be in the hands. But what makes the Chantays special is what goes on in their heads before they begin to pick, strum and drum. The conceptual talents that resulted 35 years ago in "Pipeline," possibly the most perfect pop artifact ever created by teenage Americans, still endures now that founding guitarists Bob Spickard and Brian Carman and original drummer Bob Welch all have passed 50.
As on their strong 1994 comeback album, "Next Set," the Chantays, who also include younger recruits Ricky Lewis and Brian Nussle on guitar and bass, revisit "Pipeline" on "Waiting for the Tide." This time it's a marvelous all-acoustic version that ticks with the drama and inevitability of a time bomb.
What's more, most of the 14 tracks that precede the signature hit reflect a similarly exceptional talent for putting tasty guitar licks into clean, dramatic structures, with elegantly exciting results.
The Chantays don't play modernist, raging raucous surf music a la Dick Dale, their precursor on both the '60s Orange County rock scene and the '90s surf-rock comeback wave. Their style rests on laying out clean lines and lyrical riff melodies rather than on conjuring a sonic storm. But their compositions reach beyond surf conventions (although there are several strong oceangoing numbers here based in the flamenco-like drive and spumescent splash of reverb that define surf-rock).
"Night Sand," a shimmering ballad, simply contemplates the loveliness of the shore, apart from any surfer concerns with wave action and adrenaline rushes. "Killer Dana" and "Bailout at Frog Rock" are strong riding-the-crest numbers reprised from "Next Set." The big revelation is "Green Room," a heraldic fanfare that evokes triumphant doings. If Roman generals had ridden surfboards instead of chariots, this would have been a fitting theme for victory parades.
The Chantays wrest all sorts of wonderful, brilliantly controlled tones from their guitars--from the sophisticated Southern-rock boogie of "So. Cal. Jungle" to the playful Mexican jangle and bounce of "Descanzo Daze," which sounds like Creedence Clearwater Revival transplanting "Down on the Corner" to Tijuana. They even cop a Duran Duran guitar riff (or is it Elvis Costello?) for "House Rock Rapid," a high-kicking foray out of the surf and into polished mainstream rock.
The Chantays' throats don't work nearly as well as their hands. The album's three vocal numbers are solid compositions dwelling on the pleasures of the sea-centered life, but labored singing holds them back, except for "Tuna Towne," which works as a novelty with its deadpan, semi-spoken narration about a port-to-port odyssey along the Southern California coast.
Good as it was, "Next Set" was made hurriedly during a single night in the makeshift recording setting of Michael's Supper Club in Dana Point. "Waiting for the Tide," done more painstakingly in proper studios--and now part of the first wave of releases by the fledgling local label Rocktopia--turns the conceptual power and clarity of the Chantays into an exciting, high-impact reality.
(Available from Rocktopia Records, 14252 Culver Drive, Suite A-801, Irvine, CA 92604. (888) 848-1998. Web site: http://www.Rocktopia.com/Chantays).
* The Chantays, Jamie & the Jury and Papa Bear and Friends play at a Rocktopia Records launch party Jan. 19 from 4 to 10 p.m. at Music City, 18774 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley. Admission is free. (714) 963-2366. The Chantays also perform Sunday at "Benefit for Ted."
Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent); *** denotes a solid recommendation.