The 99 Degree – The Boot Hill Surf Club
A heady mix of fine surf rhythms mixed with down to earth Manchester lyrics typifies the music produced by The 99 Degree. The cover of the new EP, The Boot Hill Surf Club, says it all. The band stand around a surf board outside a boarded up pub. Possibly the least exotic cover ever, but apt in every way. This is Manchester Surf and don’t you forget it.
The Banshee is the first EP track. This is pure surf with outstanding guitars from Phil Turner and more rhythm than you can shake a stick at. The vocals have a battle to make their mark above such extravagant music but they get there, smashing out the sinister lyrics with verve. Anyone who loves the wonderful echoing feel of surf guitar must feel this track to the depth of their soul. Driven and exciting, this is an excellent opener.
The introduction to The Ballad of Henry Newton Brown is more thoughtful, but masterful. When the moody rhythm and the sombre lyrics kick in, the scene is set. This has all the best qualities of a dirge – solemn and atmospheric. As ever, with The 99 Degree tracks there is an untidiness around the edges of the music which only serves to add to the jaded glamour.
Another spectacular guitar introduction leads to a more up-beat and rhythmic track in Losing My Mind. The lyrics are wonderfully messy on this, almost anthemic at times, especially when the rest of the band join Joe Sartini on vocals. This is another of the band’s best.
A far more paired down approach is evident on The Pusher. The track features some great bare guitars and growling vocals. The rhythm is provided by the vocal/ guitar combo except for two interludes where the band crash in half way through and again at the end. The track is interesting, although the full band sections seemed a little out of place and the track might have worked better at a shorter length.
The Boot Hill Surf Club would be worth buying for the guitar introductions on the first three tracks alone. Add in the crazy danceable rhythms and pure, sexy Mexicana of some of the tracks and you have a great addition to the genre and a new twist to a retro style of music. The Pusher might be the weakest track, but The 99 Degree are always innovative and some may love the messiness of it all. One of the EP’s charms is the garage feel to it. To over engineer their work would destroy its soul.
All words by Roxy Gillespie. More writing on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.