High tide

Thrashing surf-rock from Cliffs & Bangers
By CHRIS CONTI  |  December 2, 2009

GARAGE BAND Cliffs & Bangers.

Newport’s Cliffs & Bangers bring their lightning-rod brand of surf-rock to the 201 this weekend behind their spring ’09 release Short Tracks No Brakes (disc available for $6 at 75orLessRecords.com), and the downtown crowd better be prepared for some hair-flailing headbanging when Joe Perreira, James Fay, Ryan O’Sullivan, and Tom Berglund kick off the 75orLess showcase on Saturday. Label founder Mark MacDougall said he has made a concerted effort to get Cliffs & Bangers on “as many shows as possible” after witnessing a set over the summer in Newport, where joints like Jimmy’s Saloon and Billy Goode’s regularly play host the quartet.

“It’s a very intense live show,” MacDougall told me last weekend before a set at the Common Pub. “They barely come up for air and hair is flying all over the place.”

MacDougall met the band through a recommendation by Summing Point Studio owner Scott Rancourt, who recorded the Cliffs & Bangers debut.

“Scott knows I’m always looking for unusual sounds from this area,” MacDougall said. “He heard the rough mix and called me to come down and check it out.” MacDougall has since recorded new tracks with the band, anticipating a four-track vinyl release in January.

Short Tracks No Brakes is a portable tornado, a sub-20-minute whirlwind with seven of eight tracks clocking in under three minutes (“We keep the jamming to an absolute mini-mum,” Berglund told me), pumped out by young guys who resemble freshly-baked skaters in search of a Cliff Burton convention rather than greasers with lacquered pompadours. Opening tracks “Divebomber” and “Space Harleys” chug and clang with a post-punk flair, “Squid Hunter” is the Headbangers Ball version of instrumental surf-rock (a sole howl here the only vocals found on Short Tracks), the opening riff on “Unholy Mackerel” and scorching solo on “Redline” both sound like J Mascis circa 1986, and Berglund’s hellbent hammer-ing steals the spotlight on “Sleeper” (he provides plenty of fills and thrills throughout). By the two-minute mark of the closing track, “Speed! Danger! Death!,” the throttle is pinned, surf-rock designed for a wave pool inside a demolition derby.

“We all listen to the classic surf-rock stuff, but our sound is closer to the Turbo A.C.s, Agent Orange, or [West Coast skate punk pioneers] Jodie Foster’s Army than to Dick Dale or the Ventures,” Berglund said. While employing a sound built on the nimble and raucous surf guitar twang of the ’50s and ’60s, Berglund says Cliffs & Bangers draw influence from bands outside the genre, particularly “Kyuss and the Clash.” When I asked all four members to choose one band they could open for, the verdict read: GG Allin, Fleetwood Mac, Link Wray, and Sonic Youth.

While day jobs keep the quartet relegated to local shows and the occasional New York gig, Cliffs & Bangers are looking to pick up speed on the regional live circuit behind their fun debut record and continued support from 75orLess.

“Expect the loudest, fastest hour of thrashing surf tunes you will ever hear,” Berglund proclaimed while talking up the upcoming C&Bs set this weekend. “We throw in a few covers with our originals, but none of us are interested in playing the same old Ventures set everyone expects from the typical ‘surf-guitar’ band.”

CLIFFS & BANGERS + SIX STAR GENERAL + THE BLOOD MOONS + THE UNCOMFORTABLES | Saturday, December 5 @ 9 pm | The 201, 201 Westminster St, Providence | $5

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