Vaya Con Diabolos takes the masked ones beyond surf-horror rock
It has been five months since I first wrote about Chattanooga’s premier surf-horror group, Genki Genki Panic, and the luchadores de la guitarra have some new moves, a new EP and, in the best wrestling tradition, a secret weapon. The EP is Vaya Con Diabolos and it is a glowing testament to the effort the men in masks have put into refining their already hot sound.
With the advent of this collection of tunes I find I am less inclined to refer to them as a surf band, despite the fact that they self-identify that way. There is no doubt that’s where they started, but, intentionally or not, they have broadened their sound in a way that transcends the genre.
The opening track, “Spiderwalk,” is a good example. It starts out just as “Ventures-like” and surfy as you could want (although the opening chord voicings sound a little Robyn Hitchcock) but as the song progresses, so does its complexity and expressiveness. A half-bluesy/half acid-rock guitar solo at the end of the song is definitely somewhere beyond the outer limits of surf.
To carry my, “They are more than what they say they are” hypothesis a little further, much of the music on this EP brings to mind and old favorite, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. This is the band best remembered for creating the opening music to “The Kids In The Hall” TV show.
Frequently referred to as a “surf band,” the members of the group eschew that label so completely it led to the release of the single, “We’re Not a F***ing Surf Band.” SMSP thinks of themselves as an “instrumental rock band” and I’d be inclined to call Genki Genki the same—were it not for the titular track two and their secret weapon.
“Vaya Con Diabolos” is one of the most outstanding tracks I’ve heard anywhere in a while. The mildly distorted guitar arpeggios give it a classic feel right off the bat. But when the organ solo kicks in about halfway through, it is pure gold, a worthy homage (intentional or not) to the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” albeit a considerably slower, smoldering homage.
That being said, the vocals are what take this song from, “Hey, that’s really good” status to “Hey, this is one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year” territory.
Yes, vocals. The one and only Bethany Kidd of River City Hustlers makes a guest appearance as the vocalist on this track and the result is incredible. I’d call it a “match made in heaven” if the song didn’t sound like what should be on stage in the very best bar hell has to offer. It is a wicked, soulful tune that ought to be played over one of those extended closing segments “American Horror Story” is so fond of.
I firmly believe that Genki Genki shouldn’t completely reinvent themselves; they don’t need to stray too far from their surf roots, but songs like this demonstrate just how accomplished and versatile these musicians are. I sincerely hope they do more.
Once again I’ve written so much about half a disc I’ve left no room to discuss the other half, but I can at least squeeze in that the two remaining tunes, “Fly” and “Soul Crusher” serve to reinforce the notion that the boys in Genki Genki Panic are the best at what they do. The frenetic “Fly” is classic Genki and over too soon; “Soul Crusher” is melodic and moody and, dammit man, the whole EP is just amazing.
There are a few opportunities to check out one of the most weirdly wonderful bands in the area. Genki Genki has upcoming shows Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Marietta Zombie Walk and then later that same night at JJ’s Bohemia for Wrestlehemia.
On Friday, Oct. 23, they’ll be at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Marietta. El Chancho himself will be filling in on guitar for the return of River City Hustlers at Ziggy’s on Oct. 24 (oh please, please, please wear the mask…) and finally the band be releasing their new CD on Friday, Oct. 30 at Ziggy’s with special guests Mudsex and La Basura Del Diablo.