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The Halibuts
Life on the Bottom,  Upstart Records CD 033, 1996

 Surfing swells

What we have here is a failure to communicate. I jumped at the chance to review The Halibuts’  Life at the Bottom because it was surf music. My (much more clued-in) partner bought me a Dick Dale album after I expressed interest in the sound track to  Pulp Fiction. Then came the last cut on Junior Brown’s  Semi Crazy. After those two I was hooked.

But  Life on the Bottom isn’t at home in that company. It’s strangely distant. At first I thought it was the cheap rig I use at work that made the guitarist sound as if he’d been forced to play in another room, and playing it on a real stereo did help. But, Dick Dale’s "Miserlou" on a cheap eight-track can add fifteen m.p.h. hour onto any speeding ticket, plus the temptation to rip it up in front of the cop. Compare that to "Suicide Bay" on this album and you’ll see what I’m getting at. The musicians seem skilled, the mix professional, but this is clearly music played by nice boys. She who shares my bliss, who still can’t wear clothes with shoulder pads because she spent too much time paddling out, says it’s background music. She’s right. This is good music to write marketing plans by, not to pretend that you’re wild, young and capable of anything.

So skip it. Get some original Dick Dale (like  The Best of Dick Dale & his Del Tones on Rhino,) or go post-modern like the Mermen. Then if you’re completely hooked, and you need all that great surf feel without all the angst, you can pick up  Life on the Bottom later.– Gregg Brown

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.