“Touch My Alien”
LP on Allscore
CD on Double Crown Records (available January 2019)
Listen and Download from Bandcamp.com
A new Kilaueas album is always an anticipated and warmly greeted event. They’ve had a long career and earned well deserved love for their over the top live shows and consistently high-quality recordings. Their international touring has helped spread the legend, and Ralf Kilauea has big personality, whether he’s combing his hair mid-song, being an MC at the Surfer Joe Festival or pounding schnitzel with a Fender while wearing a bunny suit in YouTube videos. In social media, he’s outspoken and not afraid to take on surf music’s sacred cows or lampoon elitists.
Following Ralf’s lead is an unbelievably talented and tight unit with longtime colaboraters Tom Kilauea on guitar, Jaque Kilauea on bass, and for the first time on a Kilaueas long player, Perzi Perzborn on drums. Perzi is a veteran of the German alt rock scene, and has toured the world over with his band Plan B. He is solid, sure-footed and inventive, as are all the guys. The sense of humor The Kilaueas exude has a way of coloring the band’s music, which bubbles with optimism and unexpected delights. Just look at the song titles and you’ll know these guys keep a positive perspective.
Musically, one thing that immediately sets The Kilaueas apart is that the second guitar, rather than playing a straight rhythm pattern, will often play a repetitive riff behind the lead, and engage in frequent call an response with the lead. By not mucking up the sonic space with constant 8th notes, there’s room in the arrangements to hear subtleties. Another trademark is the brevity and focus of the songs, not a shred of unnecessary fluff here. I didn’t review all of the 17 songs here (yes, you get your money’s worth!) but there’s isn’t a dinker in the bunch, this album is a blast!
Highlights from Side A:
A really strong opener with “The Ace of Space,” a heavily caffeinated rocker that, aside from everything else going on within it, has one of the coolest drum fills you’re likely to have ever heard. “Why Do Fools Fall in Lava” (great title) is tuneful and hooky, like a conversation between two lovers convincing each other to elope, and embark on a wondrous life together. Such drama! “The Twang Files” heaps menace over a dragging pace with spy themes heavy on the melodic minor scale. “Pe Langa Plopii Fara Sot” is chamber surf, starting out traditionally before the guitars dampen to elegant pizzicato– I can imagine dancers at a show having to invent waltz steps for this one. “R.F.T.P.B.T.O.N.R.” (they should make a contest to guess what those initials stand for) is the epic of this disc. It’s a slow, dark, majestic grinder with wonderful, completely analog sounding space effects, that builds and builds.
And the very strong B Side:
If “The Dark Wave Swells” is meant to poke fun at the Bambi Molesters album title, it’s surely an honor for them to have such a great song written in homage. “Touch My Alien,” isn’t space themed as you might imagine, but alien in the original meaning. The use of middle eastern scales, which even though, as surf music fans, we’ve heard in a thousand other songs, still sounds foreign and mysterious. (And then they hit you with a completely unexpected bridge.) I’m not sure why “Getaway Board” isn’t called “Imperial Surf Troopers” as suggested by the spoken introduction, maybe they're saving that title for a future song, but it’d be a bang up song even if it were called “Poop.” Last year’s hit single, “The Men from M.E.N.S.C.H.” appears here in a re-recorded version, losing none of the original’s vigor, and the addition of maniacal laughter spooks up the bridge (brilliant idea!) “Zambezi Nocturne” is sexy surf slow jam, filled out with vibraphone and congas, for those intimate moments that pop up 3/4 of the way through an instrumental album. “A Song Called Horse” leans toward Spaghetti Western, or may Spätzle Western in this case. I love the background vocals in the last verse. Following after is a reprise of “Horse” with acoustic rhythm and whistling for the lead, a very tasty finish to this delightful album.
The Imperial Surf Troopers do recon at George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic:
The Men from M.E.N.S.C.H. video