It’s pretty safe to say that the Portland, Oregon, trio Guantanamo Baywatch don’t take themselves too seriously. Self-described as “surf sex sludge and garbages,” the trio out of Portland unleash a rowdy type of punk ‘n roll full of angsty derision. Most of the tracks are a cacophony of rattling drums and distortion with drowned out vocals and a Ventures-style surf solo somewhere in the mess.
For a majority of the band’s sophomore full-length Chest Crawl, this is the formula the band sticks to with few exceptions. That formula can be a fun one though. Tracks like “Boomerenga” and “Dottie” lets loose enough commotion and swagger and fairly ripping six-string surf riffs to annoy any stiff who doesn’t take kindly to brazen, in-your-face, keep it simple stupid punk rock. Conversely, it will likely please a fair contingent of those unconcerned with hearing loss or lyrical content but like their songs lean and noisy.
Chest Crawl is not just angst and spit. On tracks like “Frizella” and “Sad Over You,” Guantanamo Baywatch drops a bit of soulful Detroit garage and the 50’s rockabilly of Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent through its wall of fuzz. These offerings still retain their edge but let down the trio’s guard enough to let the listener have a sweaty, blue-lighted breather.
While most of Chest Crawl is a riotous affair, it’s also familiar punk turbulence that we’ve been through a number of times. The group’s most obvious influence is the Cramps, a band with 1,000 imitators and counting. Guantanamo Baywatch may press the gas pedal down a bit harder and scream a bit louder but their influences still sit firmly on their torn T-shirts. What results is an album that while fun, often stagnates no matter how much the trio push things into the red.