Album review: Dad’s Acid rides the sound waves
A lot of people might not realize it, but Minnesota has a rich history of producing surf music. The big kahuna is Minneapolis’ Trashmen, who ripped off two other bands’ songs, mashed them together and came up with the stone classic “Surfin’ Bird.” A smaller kahuna is Duluth’s Titans, who wrote “The Noplace Special,” a totally underrated dark-surf jam.
These are people who probably never put a surfboard in the ocean, or, at the very least, didn’t get many chances to carve up any waves, what with being based in a place that resembles an arctic wasteland much of the time.
The latest group to pick up the faux-surf torch is Dad’s Acid, a trio from Duluth who run the reverbed guitars of surf music through a doom and punk filter. Their sound is their own — it’s not something anyone else is really making, locally or otherwise.
The band’s debut EP is a fairly mid-fi, buzzy blast. Opening track “Red Surf” slowly sets the table with a simple, repeating bassline, thumping toms and atmospheric guitar. It sounds a little like Public Image Ltd. About two minutes in, the wave breaks, a brief freakout takes place and everything settles back down for some Morricone guitar squiggles before it all blows up again. A minute from the end, it all goes hardcore punk for no particular reason. It’s a good introduction to the band’s sound, but, as an instrumental, it could use some vocals.
“Jehovah’s Witness Cereal Marathon” is the bouncy second track. Nikki Moeller’s bass is fuzzy and demonic, as are drummer Jacob Paulsrud’s vocals. He takes a screamy, shouty approach, which works well with the unhinged music. His drumming, though, is where he stands out. He’s got amazing skills. It’s tough to be a heavy, swinging drummer in Duluth, but he’s killing it.
The third song, “Ghetto Cowboy,” is spy music meets Black Flag’s “My War.” Paulsrud screams like he’s stuck in the well in Buffalo Bill’s basement, and guitarist Jacob Swanson lays down some tremolo-picked leads that couple nicely with Moeller’s basslines.
“Surf’s Up Minnesota” closes the four-song collection. It’s got a woozy, gregarious riff that gets shouted down by Paulsrud’s reverby yelps. It’s got the best (only?) chorus on the album, sung by Swanson: “You left me for California / and beaches, babes, blue skies and sand / now I’m surfing Minnesota.” The mix of the melodic chorus with the shouted verses is something that works really well, and the band might do well to continue to pursue this approach.
Dad’s Acid’s got something going, but this is probably just the beginning. It would be great to hear Paulsrud’s pummeling drums recorded really well, the next time around, and to hear the band explore more vocal approaches that contain melody and harmony. They’re easily one of the more intriguing, noisy rock bands Duluth has produced in a while. Surf’s up.
Dad’s Acid / “First Trip”
Recorded by: Brian Ring
Personnel: Jacob Swanson (guitar/vocals), Jacob Paulsrud (drums/vocals), Nikki Moeller (bass)
Upcoming show: 10 tonight at Norm’s Beer and Brats, 1901 Broadway St., Superior
Listen to “Surf’s Up Minnesota”
Tony Bennett reviews music for the News Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.