The Turbosonics, one of Pittsburgh’s more reliable surf bands, always has been a bit of a cultural throwback for me, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Yes, guitarists like Dick Dale largely popularized surf in the 60s and the form reared its head again, briefly, in the 90s (thank you, Man or Astro-man?) – and that, now, is some 25 years ago. But there’s been an evolution to the form over the decades and many surf bands, even some contemporary ones in Pittsburgh, have a punky edge to them that’s thoroughly modern. Not the Burghers Turbosonic; these boys harken back from a simpler era, when adrenaline translated into pipeline dreams and had no (or maybe, to be fair, less) psycho-sexual connotations.
Listening to The Turbosonics seems more like slapping on some seemingly antique vinyl by The Ventures or The Tornadoes; yes, it’s wickedly reverb-drenched and the picking on the guitar can be machine-gun rapid, but there’s an inherent innocence, even joyful naivete, to the conceit of it all. They celebrated on beach blankets, not getting rowdy underneath/between them, after all.
Enter the new material, the Center of the Sun EP, the first offering since bassist Keith Caldwell – a bearded doctor! shouting social justice! – left the band in the wake of the Tres Gatos Suave LP. If the two-song single/primer provided to music flaks like me is any indication, and I imagine it is, The Turbosonics are playing it safe on the Center of the Sun EP and sticking to the basics, doing what they know they do well. And what’s wrong with that?
This isn’t to say the two songs herein are a carbon copy of “Walk Don’t Run.”
The title song for the EP is more raucous than these guys usually get and features some great guitar shredding. And the more sedate B-side, which burns slowly, gets flashed out by a rather prominent, almost ballad-esque acoustic guitar. And those are details worth celebrating.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer to see guitarist Jason Truckenbrod go all Link Wray on us and start punching holes in his tube-amp to really grit it up. But that’s not entirely on the agenda on this one. And that’s fine. Here’s the pull-quote: on its new EP, The Turbosonics do what The Turbosonics do best, offering up straight-forward surf-rock instrumentals that aren’t tainted by the knotted complexity of the modern era – and they sound great doing it!