You can't actually surf in Portland, Oregon, but then again, you can't ride the waves in Minneapolis, either, and that didn't stop the Trashmen from becoming the world's greatest landlocked surf band, so there's no compelling reason why Portland's Guantanamo Baywatch can't hang ten with their guitars and drums if they're of a mind. Judging from Guantanamo Baywatch's first album for Dirtnap Records, Chest Crawl, their guitarist Jason Powell has a better-than-average grasp of the sound of classic surf rock, and if he doesn't bring much new to the picture, he's clearly no hodad, laying out reverb-soaked leads with lots of beer-soaked gusto that makes his dexterity all the more impressive. The rhythm section of bassist Chevelle Wiseman and drummer Chris Scott is similarly capable, holding down the bottom end with enthusiasm to spare and no wasted effort, and at their best, the group kicks up a pretty great party soundtrack on Chest Crawl. However, it's not hard to sense that by just hearing and not seeing the big bash, you're missing something; Guantanamo Baywatch seem eager to bring a Cramps-like lasciviousness to their music, but their sound doesn't quite hit that mark, even at its most frantic, and Powell's vocals, as hard as he tries, are usually more annoying than decadent in his persistent forced squeal. (Besides, everyone knows the best surf bands rarely bothered with vocals.) When they're on a roll, Guantanamo Baywatch deliver some ripping surf tunes, and they clearly know how to deliver a good time with a beat you can dance to, but Chest Crawl is never quite as exciting as it wants to be, and the flat, confined sound of the audio doesn't help one bit. Maybe these folks need to loosen up and learn to get weirder musically before they leave the beach for the studio next time.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming