From surf instrumentals that evoke 50’s diners and Tarantino soundtracks to vintage moshpit inducing punk rock, Portland rockers Guantanamo Baywatch’s new release “Desert Center” delivers a fun and lively tracklist that should prove to be downright rowdy when played live. One would not be remiss in considering this album, at least in part, to be a modern reboot of the Ventures or Dick Dale with its reverb laden tremolo picking and classic, catchy guitar driven melodies. But right after the opening instrumental track seems to set the tone for a surf-rock fest, Guantanamo Baywatch surprise the listener with the soulful and incredibly singable, Beatles-esque second track “Neglect.”
The core of this album is undoubtedly driving surf/punk rock, yet the seventh track provides another unexpected change of pace; “Blame Myself” slows the pace and showcases lead singer Jason Powell’s vocal prowess as well as the Portland quintet’s versatility. This album could easily have been recorded in a beach side studio in 1960’s Southern California. Yet at the same time, the influence of underground 1970’s London is unmistakable. The lively revisitation of classic surf rock creates the perfect backdrop for the image of a Woodie on its way to the California beach, but the driving bass/drum lines and distortion of Powell’s vocals harken back to a bygone Punk era. Guantanamo Baywatch’s ability to mix surf, punk, psychedelic, and garage rock make “Desert Center” a pleasure to listen to. No matter where you may be, turn this album up, close your eyes, and you’ll be transported to a sunny surfer’s paradise.