Review Summary: Surf's up dude.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
There's a chance that if you aren't from the Southern area of California, SoCal as the cool kids call it, then the existence of indie surf rock group The Japanese Motors might come as news to you. Since the band formed in 2004 they've kept relatively quiet internationally but have thrived as a underground phenomenon that gained a dedicated fan base by encompassing the defining cultural aspects that has shaped the sunshine state over countless decades. The group respectfully came together in Costa Mesa with their stomping grounds including the greater part of Orange County known for its perfect weather, hollywood dreams, thriving beach scene, and many of the surfing stereotypes you'll find in the media.
The four piece definitely has the sound that brings to mind a memorable throwback to The Beach Boys but puts a stripped down garage rock demeanor into the mix that is almost reminiscent of The Strokes laid back style. The classic "Ooohs" and "Aaahs" are featured on the majority of the tracks with the backing band creating a distinct allure that does a superb job in transporting you into the very location they pay homage to over their eleven efforts. The debut album is full of extremely care free material you can kick back and unwind to that stimulates nothing more than enjoying life to the fullest. The optimism that resonates from each appropriately timed song mimics the tone of their backgrounds very affectively and makes for an experience that never tires.
The first single to hit from the self-titled, "Single Fins & Safety Pins," is nothing more than a tale of frontman Alex Knost waiting on the forever jammed 405 freeway on the way to catch some waves and chill with some buds. It's such a feel good tune about kick ass westward summer fun that I wouldn't be surprised if you packed up all your belongings and made a b-line for the shore to see what all the fuss was about. It's evident that the recording artist and punk legend Richard Hell had a massive impact on the vocal delivery that revels in the 60's surf rock vein. The musical front from Nolan Halls guitar and Chris Vail's bass stick relatively bubbly without attempting anything too out there that would throw off the mood. Everyone is still very successful in nailing the simplistic suburb nature sought after on top of Andrew Atkinson's mellow beats.
If you want to get a idea of what most of the album sounds like then think of the fictitious band The Wonders from the 90's classic "That Thing You Do!" if they all had a taste for the ocean. The one of a kind lifestyle transferred through humble stories might catch on to those who have witnessed the liner notes but unfortunately could go over the heads of those who haven't been as fortunate. Truth be told that's the only flaw I can find within the self-titled but I personally don't think it's big enough to make anyone feel left out. If anything it executes its message so naturally it's nearly an encouragement to change that fact. The band members all being immersed in the SoCal culture, from Knost being a professional surfer to Atkinson coming from a designing job at Hurley, certainly gives them a genuine authenticity that I've felt other local acts have faked to target a very cliched demographic.
The Japanese Motors have come a long way from playing Iggy Pop covers at rambunctious house parties and have morphed into something truly exhilarating. Sadly, I'm not sure if they're still an active band at the moment since I haven't heard from them since this 2008 release. I hope I'm terribly wrong and they catch me off guard with some more summer jams because this is one album that helps the most when I'm feeling homesick. So if you're ever in a light-hearted place where you begin to think, I know somewhere for me, there'll be a new exciting scene
, then grab a board and surf's up dude.