Guantanamo Baywatch: Desert Center Review

By Holly Hearn
Music Journalist

Artist: Guantanamo Baywatch
Album: Desert Center
Label: Suicide Squeeze Records
Release Date: August 4, 2017

Guantanamo Baywatch is a Portland based trio composed of guitarist/vocalist Jason Powell, bassist Chevelle Wiseman and drummer Chris Scott. Most would label the group as garage surf rock although the members identify their genre as “surf sex sludge and garbage.” Their most recent album Desert Center was released August 4 by Suicide Squeeze Records and is comprised of songs that are obviously meant to be played live. The tracks are electrifying, unexpected and everything a surf rock enthusiast could ask for.

The opening track, “Conquistador,” is an instrumental that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. It is a quintessential instrumental surf rock piece complete with reverb-soaked electric guitar and a fast tempo of consistent symbols. “The Scavenger,” “Mesa, AZ” and “Witch Stomp” continue the intense surf rock trend while other songs tell another story. The seventh track, “Blame Myself” is an intimate look into the trials and tribulation of a relationship on the rocks. The fifth track, “Interlude #1” interrupts listening with one of the most maniacal laughs I’ve ever heard. The voice welcomes you with “Happy Halloween” followed by unevenly spaced intervals of chuckling that contribute to a general uneasiness. Desert Center is traditional west coast surf rock on a hyper-real Halloween roller coaster.

Desert Center’s tracks are pretty diverse, but the album is completely cohesive. Guantanamo Baywatch has done a terrific job of combining distinct sounds to create Desert Center, a surreal middle-ground of electric intrigue.

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