Surf music has always been a curious entity in the world of popular sound. Way off to the side of the commercially acceptable ilk, this red-headed stepchild came into the world twisting and screaming. Sealed within its own embryonic cocoon of popularity, the genre formed an actual way of beach blankets and bonfire life. Passed from knowing hodad to every hang ten bunny on the beach, surf-styled music was, and is, the language of members only. From its early and rebellious beginning in the early 1960s, to its continued resurgence throughout the years, surf-inspired music is always a surprise. While most original surf was instigated via instrumental melody, the genre has evolved to mix big, brash guitar with candy-coated vocal melody from coast to tremolo coast.
This week’s Shoreworld features the frenetic pop dalliances of the group Dentist. Formed from the passionate and creative embraces of several popular Asbury Park rock bands, Dentist is the first real opportunity for Emily and Justin Bornemann to ride their wild style of tsunami pop to the Shoreworld beach. The pair had tested deeper waters in the band No Wine For Kittens, working through an experimental timeframe and learning the difficult art of noteworthy composition.
Comprised of Emily Bornemann on rhythm guitar, Justin Bornemann on lead (an interesting switch from his days of bass-playing renown), Andy Bova on drums, Nick Kaelblein on bass and Matt Maneri on keys, Dentist take influential cue from West Coast tube curlers such as Best Coast, Wavves and The Drums, to name a very select few.
The eponymous disc features 13 beach-breaking Fujiwaras that roll from choppy, pop punk kick-outs to hot-dogging groundswells of millennialism angst. Sparsely produced, the record focuses on wringing every drop of addictive melody into these musical pieces. Justin Bornemann steps up quite well as lead guitarist and sprinkles this body of work with interesting shards of jagged, tube-fueled lead work as Emily cuts wide slices of rhythmic chord brilliance over bombastic bass and drums.
With a voice that mixes the lush, echo-driven force of Kim Deal and the candy-coated delectability of Harriet Wheeler, Emily Bornemann is the quintessential singer for a band such as Dentist. She has the ability to ride high over the mix without sounding flat or tired. She also has the gift of being easily recognizable.
The record blasts off with a frenzied four-count blast on “Pretty Lady.” The band chugs along at 100 mph as Bornemann (Emily) growls and coos you into a category of punk and roll rapture as Bova and Kaelblein nail down the bottom. Middle-eight lead work is dirty; Eric Erlandson (Hole)-styled virtue and ends this song down on its banged-up knees.
“Fruit And Cake” uses spectral feedback to penetrate into its saccharine hook. Massively reverberated Fenders time bend into melodic lead tunnels before cracking the veil for Emily and her echo-saturated lyrical story. This sound is instantly congenital and takes me back to the exploratory times of 1993’s wondrous Last Splash by The Breeders.
Another compelling song is “Dolce.” It’s refreshing to see (and hear) this band’s important influence affairs through their writing directions on this project. The five members seem well-schooled in the ’90s and “Dolce” brings melodic, alt rock-infused heroes such as Throwing Muses and L7 into immediate focus.
“Retired Lifeguard” is the one traditional surf tune on the disc. Monolithic Fenders growl, howl and clang across tube-fueled valleys of plate reverb, addictive vocals and four-on-the-floor bass and drums. If there was ever a song that you could actually watch this band and think, “Yeah, that’s kind of salty,” this would be the one. Justin steers this down Spanish-influenced cul-de-sacs, firing off multi-noted banderilleros as the band pumps, turns and modulates into each arabesque section.
“No Matter” is this band’s disc hit. Its infectious influential mixture of The Cure, Foo Fighters and The Pixies inflections ensure that this heavily hooked gem will stay in your head for days and days. This is also one of the standouts for Emily, who can get lost in the mix at times. Clear, bell-like vocal tone focuses this record right on her, and it’s a song that should garner much radio love.
“Bird In The Cage” once again stresses the able support of guest guitarist James Stahon, who blasts out blitzkriegs of bar chord power and melody-based single note flourishes that remind me of some of the In Utero material from Cobain. The dynamic verses come down nice and low, allowing Emily to lay down succinct vocal sugar before the builds surge. Kudos goes to the piano work of Matt Maneri, who levels out rough edges while defining compositional boundaries.
“Bad Breath” is filled with quirky, harmonic guitar strokes, energetic rhythm designs and dazzling 1960s-styled vocal charm. I’m not sure if the producer has dropped the vocals this deep into the mix on purpose or not. Some bands go for an overall sound over the individual performance segments, but whatever the method to the madness, the band mix appears to be a tad overpowering at times when I want to hear more of the singer.
As quick as that particular feeling lands, “Koko B. Ware” dives in to give me what I want to hear. Guitars and drums rumble à la “Wipeout” as the band develops into the verse, clearing the entrance for Emily’s pristine and melodious splashdown. I’m a big fan of the balanced buildup in the closing few bars of the tune and I truly appreciate the raw and sustaining finish.
The next song that caught my consideration is called “Batman.” No, it’s not what you might think. There are no caped crusaders landing meaty KAPOWS! or BLAMMOS! Just rollercoaster dips of surprise as Dentist launch rolled drums and complicated pentatonic progressions (courtesy of Stahon) that tumble over the top of tightly-chugged bar chords. Emily’s style is laid back and sultry, highlighting her melodic skilled odyssey that makes this another surefire hit on the record.
Another captivating song is “Four Dollar Stoli.” Half-time meter pulses underneath clean waves of electric guitar. Shimmering tremolo sparkles as Emily pours her heart and soul into the verses. Her high, Dale Bozzio conveyance pushes this song into my number three positioning for “most memorable tune” on this gnarly and rambunctious record.
The band finishes off this fast-moving platter with the beautifully lonesome feel of “Dinosaur.” Emily waxes poetically over swirls of simple acoustic and synth-tinged breakers. Echoed melodies sparkle and shimmer through background nuances of scattered musical peaks and pleasant valleys on this standout tune.
Forgoing stereotypical insanity and embracing their poppy fun surf punk party, Dentist investigate a lush and extensively more elaborate direction than they’ve done with past projects, and it’s a course that should get this band riding quite high on the perfect wave of success.
To celebrate their new release (available on GoodEye Records), Dentist will be having an action-packed release party on May 9 at The Saint in Asbury Park. Special guests will include Seaside Caves, Paper Streets, Dollys and XNY.
For more information on the band, the record or the performance, head over to the site at facebook.com/dentistband.