Surf Compilation Boasts New Wave Of Sound

New Bikini World takes listeners for a ride through '90s version of surf sound.

To call Domenic Priore a surf fanatic is sort of like saying Oasis leader Noel Gallagher is opinionated.

"Surf has always been a homebase for me," said Priore, 37, about his obsession with the sound. "I grew up in L.A. as a young child when the first stuff started coming out and I would listen to it on the radio all the time. It was exciting and fun to be on the edge of the precipice there, when the world was tipping over in 1963 before the Beatles came."

But for Priore some of what is going on with surf today is equally as meaningful to the genre. In fact, in many ways, he sees what's happening now as the second wave of surf, if you will.

Priore has funneled his fixation with surf into an upcoming compilation of contemporary surf rock entitled Bikini World: 15 Surf Stompers From The End of the Century... (Sept. 23), which features contributions from Seattle's Boss Martians ("XKE!"), Southern Culture on the Skids ("Rumors of Surf"), Los Straightjackets ("Calhoun Surf"), The Daytonas ("Surfer's Deal"), Laika & the Cosmonauts ("Surf's You Right") and 10 other '90s surf bands high on Priore's list.

Priore said he began his public fascination with surf in the late '80s with a series of surf 'zines entitled Dumb Angel Gazette. The 'zine debuted in 1987 with a 90-page almanac of Priore's favorite music, but by the time he unleashed the second version a year later, it had exploded into a 265-page affair, later turned into a book.

"One of the reasons I wanted to do this compilation was because these are all really great records that had limited distribution," Priore said of the recordings he's gathered together on his album. "Some labels are doing great vintage stuff, but what isn't happening is people getting turned on to some of the contemporary bands that are forming and are really good."

In addition to previously-released tracks by L.A.'s The Bombora's ("Time Bomb"), San Francisco's The Phantom Surfers ("Sloth In Molasses") and Japan's Jackie & the Cedrics ("Scalping Party"), the album boasts rare, vinyl-only and out-of-print tracks from S.F.'s The Trashwomen ("Aphrodesia"), The Boardwalkers ("It's a Bikini World"), Italy's Royal Nightmares ("The Hipster"), Sir Bald Diddly & His Honourable Big Wigs ("Chaeto"), The Hillbilly Soul Surfers ("Renegade"), as well as tracks from The Untamed Youth ("Tube City") and The Fathoms ("Fathomless").

Mel Bergman, 34, guitarist for The Phantom Surfers, said he's glad, if not cynical, about his band's inclusion on the compilation. "We've been doing this since the last so-called 'surf resurgence'," said L.A.-based Bergman, who has toiled in the surf instrumental ghetto with his San Francisco-based brethren since 1988, releasing five albums and 30 singles in the process. "When we started out, there was no scene to speak of and now everyone in the 'surf community' wants to believe that it's the next big thing, but it has been since it started."

As evidence of his love/hate relationship with the genre, Bergman gave an example of where he thinks contemporary surf music is, circa Sept. 1997. "I was watching TV this morning and a Drano commercial came on, with a surf music background. It dawned on me, this is about what people can expect from surf music. Drano music."

Obviously more cynical about the health and vibrancy of the surf scene than Priore, Bergman said, "Nobody has really broken through since 'Wipe Out' and nobody will, because Joe Plumber loves instrumental music for three songs, then he wants to put a gun to his head."

Despite his cynicism, though, Bergman was glad his old friend Priore took the initiative to put together the album, which he thought "might help get some bands massive publicity" due to its presence on the well-distributed Relativity label.

Priore, who has previously compiled the first two volumes of AVI's Rare Surf oldies collection as well as the first-ever full album of material from long-forgotten L.A. surf band Eddie and the Showmen (Squad Car: Best of Eddie and the Showmen), is currently working on a book about the 1965-66 Sunset Strip scene in L.A., but said he won't turn his back on the waves just yet. "You're lucky if you can find a lot of new surf stuff at 2-3 stores in most major cities," he said. "People should be able to walk into any store and be able to hear what's out there. These bands on the comp are doing stuff that's as good as anything recorded in the old days and people should hear it." [Sat., Sept. 20, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]