For a quarter-century, the masked men of Los Straitjackets have cemented their self-proclaimed title as the “world’s leading practitioners of the guitar instrumental” through frequent worldwide touring and more than a dozen albums.
While the band arguably led the surf instro-revival that followed director Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION (1994), what has always set Los Straitjackets apart from the pack (beside many killer original tunes) is their eclectic taste and ingenuity. In short, Los Straitjackets are not merely a “surf” band, but rather guitar-driven curators of pop culture in the grand tradition of the Ventures. Indeed, Danny Amis, Eddie Angel, Pete Curry, Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, and Greg Townson can turn Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (the love theme from the 1997 movie TITANIC) into a sparkling, “Telstar”-inspired opus as adeptly as they hammer forth classic surf tunes such as “Squad Car”.
On occasion, the band has teamed up with various singers (including Exene Cervenka, Nick Lowe, and El Vez) on a track-by-track basis. However, their latest album, Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits, is the band’s most comprehensive vocal effort to date. Backing surf/garage/hotrod kingpin Dickerson (whose own efforts include the primal garage band Untamed Youth), Los Straitjackets summon hitherto wordless classics like “Walk, Don’t Run”, “Pipeline”, and “Apache”, superimposed by Dickerson’s own self-styled lyrics. The results are remarkably enjoyable for an effort that could have easily sunk to novelty status.
On November 2, 2014, both band and singer stopped by Philadelphia’s World Café Live as part of a tour in support of the new record. Neither disappointed. Moreover, Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson mined a few garage gems and one-hit wonders that I never thought I’d hear live – the Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel”, the Swingin’ Medallions “Double Shot”, and “Red River Rock” by Johnny and the Hurricanes, to name a few – their vitality reflecting the perennial quality of the best rock ‘n’ roll. Dickerson, in top form, delivered a bouncy, ska-lounge rendition of Phyllis Dillon’ cover of “Perfidia”, as well as an amazingly spot-on tribute to the late Steve Wahrer’s 50-grit vocals on the Trashmen’s landmark “Surfin’ Bird”.
Both Dickerson and Los Straitjackets also stuck around after the show, to sign autographs and mingle with concert-goers, suggesting a deeply-rooted appreciation of their fans only paralleled by that for the music.
More photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leekinginc/sets/72157649241257901/