Guantanamo Baywatch is a surf/garage rock revival outfit out of Portland. Chest Crawl, their first album for Dirtnap, shows a real affinity for their chosen genres. Guitarist Jason Powell nails the ‘60s surf-rock guitar tone and playing style, while bassist Chevelle Wiseman and drummer Chris Michael follow his lead ably. The handful of instrumental surf songs are where Chest Crawl shines, as Powell’s expressive playing skillfully mixes catchy guitar melodies and more showoffy solos. The band’s forays into songs with vocals are more problematic. Powell chose to record all his singing through what sounds like a megaphone situated about 10 feet away from the studio microphone. A couple of songs, notably the catchy ballad “Diana” and the perfectly pitched harangue “Baby Please”, manage to overcome this vocal impediment. Otherwise the strangled-by-a-megaphone vocal style sort of makes sense for the garage rock sound the band is going for, but it’s also really distracting and definitely not easy on the ears.
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// Notes from the Road
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