Album: Gun Sho Gun (2008)
Artist: Secret Samurai
Where available/price: CDBaby.com for $12.97 and Double Crown Records (dblcrown.com) for $14.75
Songs: 1) Don’t Fear the Reverb 2) Shoegazer 3) Bereft of Enemies 4) Titus 5) Sink or Swim 6) Bakersfield 7) L’Ultimo Basamento 8) Off the Richter (Act II) 9) Dastardly Deeds 10) Istanbul 11) The Song Remains the Same
Band: Ryan Ruiz (guitar), Steve Van Wyk (bass), Bill Zuck (drums)
Extra info: Secret Samurai is scheduled to play Bar Pink Elephant on April 8.
Instrumental surf music is inseparable from Southern California. Popular 1950s rock and roll in Los Angeles adopted jazz elements as well as Mexican street-music features. Dick Dale experimented with reverberation to give his Fender Stratocaster an echo and what he described as a “wet” sound, trying to re-create the music he heard in his head while surfing. Dale incorporated quick staccato picking, a hot-rod-tough sensibility, and Middle Eastern scales from his ancestral home of Lebanon.
Secret Samurai plays it as well as any other band. They carry on all the genre’s defining traditions: the lightning-quick riffs, clean rhythms, and reverb. The first five tracks are textbook examples of the sound. In later songs, a subtle spaghetti-western influence can be heard. The dramatic “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”–like guitar-picking fits well. Both styles evoke vintage, cinematic, and romantic feelings, and the blending of the two — Frankie Avalon meets Clint Eastwood — is a genius contribution to popular culture.