Album Review: Surf Zombies — ‘Return of the Skeleton’

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Five albums in with Return of the Skeleton, and Cedar Rapids’ Surf Zombies are as fresh and fired up as ever. A rotating cast of some of the CR music scene’s heaviest hitters, the Surf Zombies have at their core guitarist Brook Hoover (full disclosure: Hoover, an in-demand guitar teacher in CR, has taught two of my children — and the way my littlest danced along whenever I listened to the disc, I suspect he’ll teach one more). The band in its latest incarnation is fleshed out by Ian Williams, also on guitar, Trevor Treiber on bass and Lipstick Homicide drummer Luke Ferguson.

Return of the Skeleton is a dream of an album for any surf rock fan. Surf Zombies only perform instrumentals; there’s no need for vocals with their intricate instrumental storytelling. The Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2017 inductees bring their A-game to this disc. Hoover, Williams and Treiber all contribute tracks, and their distinct styles make for a collection that’s pleasantly varied.

Hoover delivers the album’s heavy hitters — the addition of Ferguson on drums is especially appreciated on some of his tracks, such as “Hungry Eye,” a driving rockabilly ramble, and “Hardly Dangerson,” a dark dreamscape.

Williams offers a lighter twist on his three songs. “Twilight Cove” and “The Dudeler” are the summer breezes wafting through the disc: palate cleansers, for certain, but no less intricate for their bright sunshine. “Rogue Wave,” landing at track four to kick off the meat of the album, is your twilight muscle car ride.

The bouncy, jangly, beach-ready offerings on the album fall under Treiber’s purview. “Saturn Valley” is a conversational tune that will stick with you, and that you’ll keep coming back to again and again.

By far my runaway favorite tune is Hoover’s aptly named “Gorilla Fight.” It’s got a circling and a searching built in, and some weird effects that make it delightfully rogue and trippy.

If you’re ready to dance, or just ready to dream of summer, grab yourself an Iowa Brewing Company Surf Zombies IPA and throw this winner on repeat for the night.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 259.

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