Monday, January 30, 2006
The Tiki Men - Sneak a Drink with...
The Tiki Men Sneak a Drink with... (Secret Center, 1994)
Before the early 1990s "surf" revival very, very few people thought of instrumental music as punk rock. Sure, bands like Agent Orange and those in the Paisley Underground did some surf instrumentals, but their renditions seemed to be more in honor of their surf heroes than something that came out of punk rock.
And then there is Link Wray. One of the many grandfathers of punk rock, through 21st Century ears Link sounds more punk than anything the mall is turning out today. Hell, back in the late 80s, after the metalization & wankeredness of punk rock, songs like The Black Widow sound punk as fuck. It is no wonder why punkers, sick of metalisms and prog flexing turned to surf instrumentals for some ear cleaning. That a band like the Mummies padded their set with raw instrumentals is no surprise. It is also no wonder why bands such as the Phantom Surfers, Untamed Youth, and the Tiki Men were embraced by punk rockers.
While the Phantom Surfers championed absurdity and Untamed Youth focused on dexterity, the Tiki Men were the dark heart of the 90s garage instrumental scene. Born of boredom, the Tiki Men started when a couple friends - Scott Miller (of Nar & the Bananas) * Micha Kennedy - put together a surf band to open a Tiger Trap show at Micah's living space, a converted bean sprout factory (if I remember the story right, the band sprung from a conversation that started with, "Wanna do a surf band?" "Sure, why not?"). With Tim White and Pete Huesing filling out the band, the Tiki Men did their show. But rather than break up, like many a Sacramento side project, they became a working part of the Sacramento punk scene.
In 1994, Miller released the Sneak a Drink... 7" on his own Secret Center label. That record was followed by a 7" and LP on Hillsdale, a 7" on Estrus, a split 7" with fellow Sacramentans The Troublemakers, and some comp tracks. The band also played a Garage Shock up in Washington and regularly in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. A few years after their start, they broke up, Micah sick of dealing with other people's expectations and pressure to be the "next big thing."
What set the Tiki Men apart from most other 90s garage instrumental bands is the sound and the approach. Despite the tiki in their name, they do not truck in kitsch. The Tiki Men are not about dressing up or decorating the house in thrift scores. They are about music - raw, loud rock and roll. While Micah is a great guitarist, he doesn't use the band as a vehicle to show off. Listen to Cattle Prod on the Hillsdale single and this should be obvious. Instead a song being slave to a wild, blazing lead guitar, it is a slow tension builder, anchored by one unending snare tap. The Tiki Men's sound is raw darkness, very much in the spirit of Link Wray. One of the things that accounts for this sound is the bean sprout factory.
As I mentioned earlier, when the band formed, Micah lived in an old bean sprout factory. A short ways down Franklin Blvd., south of Broadway, the bean sprout factory consisted of a few offices on a second floor (turned into bedrooms) and a large space downstairs. The room downstairs was 100% cement and, because of that, sound ricocheted off the walls, ceiling and floors. Micah spent hours with a 4 track cassette recorder mastering that room. What he got, you hear on the Tiki Men's first single, probably the best garage instrumental record of the 1990s.*
Secret Center released 500 Sneak a Drink with the Tiki Men, all on very cool silk screened sleeves. Here are two of the four songs on the 7". --Scott S.
*Micah lent his recording talent to at least three more projects that saw vinyl. In the bean sprout factory, he also recorded the Boulevard Park Trio, an excellent garage instrumental band who released a 7" on Secret Center. Micah took his 4 track to The Loft and recorded the first Lil Bunnies 7's, giving it a monster thud of a sound. He also recorded his post-Tiki Men band, the Lazy J's, who have a track on Moo-La-La Records' Sacramento: City of a Beer 7" comp.
Thanks for posting this.
"will this be a good record, or something that should be on Dionysus?"
The Tiki Men tore the shit hole out of pretty much every band they ever played with, and i say that having seen somewhere around 90% of their live shows. The Phantom Surfers at their peak (le's say '90-'95) were better performers, but sadly never unleashed a recording nearly as great as any of the Tiki men's vinyl.
and dis the Untamed Youth all you want, but they were a tour de force back in the dark ages of 1989 when pretty much everything else sounded like complete hogshit. 'Pretentious' is an interesting term to lay on those dudes... Mostly I remember lots of PBR spraying around and Mace the drunken bassist showing his dick to the audience and Deke just brutalizing surf songs into submission. Their 'gimmick' was that they actually liked surf music. woah.
8/5/1970 - 4/19/2009 Loving friend of Megan Garrett, son of James Kennedy, Mary and Larry Davenport, brother of Sean, Rebecca and Todd. Micah also leaves many Aunts, Uncles, cousins and dear friends. Micah graduated from San Francisco State University, was a proud member of the stagehand union and a carpenter by trade. He was a gifted musician and talented craftsman and artist. He especially enjoyed his gigs with the Tiki Men and more recently the Lazy J's. A private service will be held at St. Mary's Cemetery on May 16th, followed by a celebration of his life for family and friends at 1pm at the home of John and Mary Kate De Necochea. Services May 16 2009