Darrell Ford
staff writer
October 06, 2005
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Rock Music Reviews
Charlie Don't Surf

Charlie Don’t Surf’s independent release Kvalitetsstoy is a solid debut album and step in the right direction for rock music (distinguishable from both pop-rock and alternative) at large.

There are no catchy lyrics, no radio-ready hooks (which makes sense from a band with no vocalist). The band’s music and listeners both benefit from the willingness to do the abnormal. I’m hesitant to call this prog-rock, but that seems as close as I can come to defining the cacophony that isn’t one. At times the production on the disk (especially the unintelligible noises which begin and close several movements) are reminiscent of The Mars Volta’s De-Loused in the Comatorium, so perhaps prog-rock is close enough, if you absolutely must have the music defined.

The soundscapes are complex, as more than half the album tops the six minute mark. The guitar, drum, and bass have ample time to speak volumes. They seldom waste their chance. The moods are not hidden, there’s no distraction from attempts at clever wordplay. Where an alternative band would spit “get the fuck up!” into the mic, speedy drums and guitar-work wash over the listener to instill a frenzied feeling. On other movements, patient drums and a very subtle bass goes a long way towards creating a lonely, desert highway. Some bands mask dark lyrics with upbeat pop themes, or vice versa. Charlie Don’t Surf shows that it’s not necessary to resort to such devices to keep joy or sadness in a listener’s head.

As consistent as the playing of Bryan Ayers (drums), Josh Vance (guitar), and Frank Reber (bass) is, change is constant throughout the record. Every time the cadence of the drums sounds as if Ayers could loop it with equal success, there’s a shift to the pulse of the piece that adds a little extra vitality. All the same, Ayers’ drums never escape his control, even in the album’s most manic movements. On the track “New Skol” the instruments interweave so finely that at times it’s hard to even tell that the beat is not the sole result of the bass.

The eight track album is probably best summed up by its closing song. The aptly named “Dreary/Noise/Light” adopts those moods effectively enough that the song takes on schizophrenic qualities. The track, just shy of 14 minutes long, could easily have been presented as three separate tunes, but the transitions play well between movements. This song really highlights the band’s use of reverb and feedback to simulate additional instruments and to create an ethereal vibe in the “Noise” movement. At the same time, every song touches listeners differently. Most songs excite, but especially on the three-and-a-half minute long piano driven “Interlude”, portions of the album can grow stale. Ultimately, however, Kvalitetsstoy is nothing short of satisfying.

Release date: September 2005
Label: Independent
Rating: 7.4 / 10

On the web: http://www.surfingislame.com