Jack Johnson may be the new sound of surf rock, but it wasn’t always that way. The pop music that was pumping out of Southern California radios during surf rock’s first incarnation in the early ’60s was bohemian in comparison to anything else on the airwaves. Call it a love affair between Vox organs and tinny electric guitars that were maxxed out on reverb. There was a tribal quality to the music and the vibe — at least until a renegade composer and bandleader from Hawthorne, California, named Brian Wilson began to inject the genre with his own spaced-out harmonies. Now it’s all “dance party.” Surf rock was a sweaty good time. It sounded weird to squares, and that’s the essence of what the Creepy Creeps, a San Diego–based retro-style surf-rock band, have figured out.
The Creeps also know that when it comes to surf rock, it’s no longer enough that you should simply play a guitar. These days it’s about how weird you can make your guitar sound while remaining inside the boundaries defined by surf and outside of the boundaries defined by the blues-rock guitar pyrotechnics that ultimately pulverized surf rock into oblivion by the mid to late ’60s. The Creepy Creeps’ guitar warbles and chirps and resonates with pure punk static. The drums are solid firecrackers, and the keyboards are vintage and electronic. It is a wonderful sound, both authentic and novel. But the Creeps are revisionists, not pragmatists. They’ve managed to fire up the music with a boatload of their own ideas.
I suppose the extravagant stage costumes further their vibe as an artsy band; they also show up for gigs with their own pump-and-grind go-go dancers who coerce the audience out onto the dance floor. But don’t expect to buy a CD at any of their shows — to dig the band at home, you need a record player. The Creepy Creeps are known for releasing their music in the old-fashioned way — on vinyl.
CREEPY CREEPS, The Casbah, Saturday, July 5, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10.