Made in Hawaii - Jeff Dahl (Iwannabeahoople Records)
Here’s news for those who thought Jeff Dahl had put his guitar in a rack and drawn an end to his prolific punk-glam career. He’s back with a new album - and it sounds like he never went away.
Dahl had been laying low with protracted health issues since pulling up tent pegs at his Arizona desert digs and moving back to his own (and his wife’s) childhood home of the Hawaiian Islands. Prior to slipping off the public radar eight years ago, Dahl was a force of rock and roll nature, turning out a string of abrasive, hard-rocking records and publishing one of the world’s greatest magazines, Sonic Iguana.
Although most of Dahl’s records have been under his own name, he’s collaborated with a ton of others like Poison Idea, Cheetah Chrome, Rikk Agnew, Freddy Lynxx and members of The Germs. Dahl rose to prominence on the LA punk scene, playing in Powertrip and (briefly) fronting Angry Samoans. So he has form.
Anyone who names a record "Vomit Wet Kiss" should not be ignored.
It was late last year when a corner of the Interwebs lit up with the news that Dahl intended recording a new album and was going to crowdsource funding. It didn’t take long for the money roll in and the finished product started landing in mailboxes around the world a month ago.
“Made in Hawaii” is the first Jeff Dahl record since 2008’s “Back To Monkey City”.
“Kallua 5 a.m.” kicks it off in self assured fashion: A solid, mid-tempo groove and that nagging, sharp-edged guitar are present. There’s a feeling that all is not well in somebody’s corner of the world, underlined by the closing line: “Ain’t paradise a bitch?”
This is melodic punk rock. Simple in its structure but done so well. “Bags (Bruddah Mo’o)” borrows stylistically from the Heartbreakers, which ain’t no bad thing. There’s more of the same on “Too Much Pilikia” (that’s Hawaiian for trouble) while short but sweet instrumental “The Bruce Balos Boogie” draws from the same 1950s rocker well.
“Crater Days” is a country-flavoured ode to lost teenage days, another great grove swathed in grass and incense aromas. Like most of the songs, it’s reflections on growing up an living in the USA’s 50th state - does that make it a concept album? - vignettes of kids doing the shit that kids did when nobody was looking. Sarah Bethany’s keyboard trimmings on the outro make “Crater Days” one of the album’s best.
“P.F. Surf” (that’d be short for “pray for surf”) ends the record in the same way it started. It’s a winding, Faces-styled celebration of Island Life. “Bang On” lands in the same place and you can smell the coconut oil. Mott and early Alice were probably other inspirations.
Even though he’s never been one to stick to one style, it’s the Jeff Dahl rockers that will keep the old fans happy. There are enough here, like the the short and spikey “Shorebreak”, to keep the head shaking. Dah's production is clear-headed and focused. The band of locals (mostly drummer Sam Bradley with Dahl on bass and contributions from Bethany and Shawn Pilo on drums) work the songs well.
As alluded, this is a crowd-sourced record so the pressing run of physical CDs was limited. There are some at CDBaby (for how long, nobody knows) where you can also grab the digital download. While you're there, hit up Jeff to make the next one. May he Hang Loose for many years to come!