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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Music Reviews »

Permalink The TomorrowMen: It's About Time

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So, here we have a completely unique, super creative and highly ambitious surf release! I'm of course good friends with Danny (ano now that the T-Men have a CD out with Double Crown, his labelmate!), so I will not pretend to be unbiased - I AM heavily biased - and I love this CD! So, acknowledging my bias, I would still like to write a few words about it, and of course recommend it very highly!

I suspect most SG101-ers know all about the TomorrowMen, but in case you are a newbie or just haven't been paying attention, they're a San Francisco quartet who's been around for something like five-six years (maybe more?), playing a lot in the Bay Area, and on occasion further. The band was formed by Danny Snyder who is the lead guitarist and also the primary writer. (Danny also plays the second guitar in Meshugga Beach Party and Frankie & the Pool Boys.) The band's schtick is that they're time travelers from year 3000, and many song titles reference temporal phenomena in some way or another, Given that this album has also really been a long time coming, I think the title of "It's About Time!" is about the funniest and most apt album title I've heard in a very long time! Nicely done, right off the bat.

The most remarkable thing about this album is definitely the music, which is of course exactly as it should be. It's at once unmistakably surf, but also unlike any surf music that's come before. SF has had a long tradition of highly progressive surf bands, the Mermen and Pollo Del Mar being the most notable. The T-Men have been able to absorb and channel a lot of that progressive SF vibe while at the same time remaining much more grounded in the tradition - a neat trick! The sounds of all the instruments are traditional, Danny playing his heavily reverbed Jag through a vintage brownface Bandmaster (despite my oft-mentioned skepticism of Jags, Danny makes his sound REALLY good here), Tony's drums sounding crisp and big while avoiding the modern rock drum sound (you know, an annoyingly loud kick drum, heavily compressed and separated individual drums,etc.), Ben's rhythm also sounding clean and crisp, and Steve's bass full but placed in the background in a more traditional manner. They all also play in a way that's true to '60s surf music, nothing here that you wouldn't have heard back then.

What makes the T-Men unabashedly ambitious and progressive and unique is the songwriting and arranging, which are unlike any other band's out there. Highly textured songs with many interlocking parts, never following ordinary and traditional chord progressions or even song structures. There's nothing rote or even routine in these songs. In fact, I think the progressive label is very fitting here in the sense that like many '70s prog bands, the T-Men are not concerned with just setting up and then delivering the big chorus but rather letting the songs unfold in a way that paints evocative mental pictures (maybe sharing with old prog bands a common influence of classical music in this regard?). Whatever the case may be, I must say it works like a charm. I think these songs take several listens to 'get' and fully insinuate themselves into one's synapses, but once they're there, their enjoyment deepens with each listen, especially since there's so much packed in there that you will hear something new each time you listen - these songs are thick.

I won't bore people by going through the album song by song. I'll just say a couple of quick things: first, all four songs from the T-Men's 2007 home-made EP-CD have been rerecorded for this CD, and they sound much better, if I may say so (and they already sounded great before!). In fact, I don't know if it's the familiarity or the blessing of the initial inspiration, but three of those songs are among my very favorites on this CD: Chronosurf (a true band anthem, a declaration of arrival), Requiem For A TomorrowMan (so urgent, the sound of imminent danger!) , and Argosy (so melancholy) are just phenomenal songs, truly great. Second, of the new songs my hands down favorite is Momentium, which is devastatingly good, with its constant key changes, thick reverb, and an ascending, even soaring melody. Of note is also the Godzilla-fuzz of Curse You Fred Haines (what's up with that title??), which I think could make Davie jealous! Another fantastic song, a beautiful melody with great texture and interesting and unexpected secondary parts. Also really dig their Atlantics' tribute (seems there's a lot of that going on lately - gee, I wonder who started that trend?? Smile ), Phistful of Photons, which works like a charm. But really, every song on here has a lot to offer, as long as you give yourself the time to absorb such rich music.

Speaking of rich, a word about the production - the album was recorded by Ferenc (Pollo del Mar, Frankie & the Pool Boys) in his basement studio (just like the Frankie CD), and it sounds phenomenal, very full and warm, with excellent tones. I suspect that working with Ferenc and (probably) not being on the clock also allowed the boys to experiment a lot, and have all sorts of neat spacey, old-fashioned sci-fi sound effects mixed in throughout the album, as well as using some interesting guitar effects (Leslie, Univibe, talk-box) which pop up every so often, adding yet another dimension to the recording. Ferenc has become an excellent surf music producer and engineer, and I'd urge any surf band in the Bay Area to consider recording their album with him - you won't get a better production than this.

The artwork is also very cool, and very fitting the theme and the music. It references the '60s, without being retro and a throwback, and it has a great deal of texture and elegance. In that way, I think it's a perfect reflection of the music. Dead on, really.

Finally, I shouldn't forget the contributions made by Tony, Steve and Ben. They all play as a band, and each player does a great job, adding to the whole and always servicing the songs. Tony's playing in particular is outstanding on several of the songs, but the entire band does really well. Ben's off to grad school on the east coast soon, so his time (ha!) with the T-Men (as well as the DeadBeats) is unfortunately running out. They'll be hard-pressed to find a replacement as good as him, Ben's playing complements Danny's playing so naturally and transparently that it's easy to forget he's there, but a more careful listen quickly reveals his key role. And Steve's bass playing is solid and imaginative and interesting when it needs to be. I should add that Danny's guitar playing is very impressive. The man truly knows his way around the guitar and has an enviable technique, which he always uses in the service of the song, never just to show off. Highly competent playing by everyone!

What else to say but that I think this is definitely one of the best albums of 2011, and it's already got some stiff competition (off the top of my head, El Supernaut, the Aqualads, and the Secret Samurai, though I'm sure I've overlooked some others). All SG101-ers should buy this album, there's just no reason for any of you not to. Don't do it to help the band - do it for yourselves! You will love it!

GREAT job, Danny, Tony, Steve and Ben!!

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Last edited: Jun 30, 2011 17:45:03

I can't even pretend to give a review like Ivan's. All I can say is that I wish I could write songs like those!

Ralph
The Storm Surfers

Be at one with the universe. If you can't do that, at least be at one with your guitar.

Excellent review Ivan. You really summed up a lot of what I felt about the album. The sound is surf, but it is just so different. I just didn't have the words or the musical acumen to really define how different it is. Such an amazing sound.

I hope the T-men hurry up and make another album soon!

Or maybe they can just warp another one back from the future... ;)

Nice review Ivan. The word I keep coming back to when I try to describe this album is "glorious". It just blooms music in a very colorful and full way.

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

As if I wasn't already amped for Mr. Mailman to deliver my copy...

Another sensational write up, Ivan; you're en fuego today! First the economics of markets / supply & demand, now the T-men. Thank you!

Here Mailman, Mailman, Mailman... Here Mailman...

Fady

El Mirage @ ReverbNation

I got a pre-release cdr from Danny at the South Bay Surf Stomp,
I was blown away, and even my dad who is a casual surf listener,
said wow that's pretty good, not your run of the mill surf album.
If that says anything.
Wink

So congrats on all the Kudos Danny and band,
and much success in the future.

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Wow! pedal to the metal but at the same time very elegant.
Nice write up Ivan - Congrats Danny.

Shocked (speechless)

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF

"With great reverb comes great responsibility" - Uncle Leo

DannySnyder wrote:

Shocked (speechless)

I bet there's a puddle at your feet as well. Kudos, Ivan & Danny!

Radio Free Bakersfield--60 Minutes of TWANG, CRUNCH, OOMPH.
http://radiofreebakersfield.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Radio-Free-Bakersfield/172410279636
http://www.sandiegojoe.com/rfb.htm

DannySnyder wrote:

Shocked (speechless)

I think Danny just said: "Jupiter's Cock!".

Thanks to all for the compliments on my review, but of course the point of this thread is not the review itself - but the subject of the review! I'd love to see people post their own thoughts on the CD, and if their own opinion differs from mine and how. It would be great to see more discussion of music on SG101 - imagine if we spent even half the time discussing music that we spend discussing gear! Wow! That would really be something.

Danny, glad you approve. Smile

Now, commence discussion.... Twisted Evil

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

IvanP wrote:

It would
be great to see more discussion of music on SG101 -
imagine if we spent even half the time discussing music
that we spend discussing gear! Wow! That would really
be something.

I can't agree more!

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

Thanks Ivan - it's writing like that that makes me so glad you help me out with the Continental Magazine. It really is an awesome disc. When Ferenc and Ivan sent me e-mails saying I should release the Tomorrowmen CD on Double Crown, I was at a point where I already had a full schedule of projects lined up and wasn't really taking on anything new until late 2011. Well, that changed the instant I heard the CD - there was no way I was gonna let another label release this! I was even more stoked when I saw the artwork - like Ivan said, the artwork looks retro and modern at the same time.

Thanks to all of you that have ordered the CD from us or the band - hope you're all diggin' it!

Sean
Double Crown Records
www.doublecrownrecords.com


Surf CD's / Vinyl / Fanzines / DVD's
The Desolate Coast - Time Slips Away CD
The Surf Junkies - Meet... The Surf Junkies CD-EP
Frankie & The Pool Boys - The Wet Season CD
Continental Magazine - Issue #32 w/21 Song CD

Jupiter's Cock is right! I really appreciate all your kind words. I won't add much as I like reading what other people have to say about the album. I've spent enough time thinking about it while making it - now it's your turn. Wink

I do feel the need to correct Ivan on one point though. That's all Jazzmaster on the record, no Jaguar. Ben played mostly Jazzmaster too, though a bit of Strat is sprinkled throughout his parts.

I played through 2 amps on most of the songs. A '62 Bandmaster and a mid-sixties Harmony 420 (Valco). You can hear the difference in sustain throughout the album, noticeable by how notes that are drawn out are more distorted than the initial attack - That's the Harmony. I thought it a pretty cool effect. Credit for that goes to former SG101 member Zak, who guided me through setting up my 2 amp rig. And most of the effects are echoplex - such a great machine!

I'll address a couple of Ivan's questions. First he asked about the influence of progressive/classical music. I admit very little tolerance for the prog rock dinosaurs of the 70's (though I'm a big fan of Hocus Pocus by Focus Headbang ) My big influences were the bands immediately following that era - the New Wave/ (old school) Punk/ Post Punk stuff - but always the more melodic stuff. Listen to Elvis Costello's first 4 albums, he's not following typical verse/chorus structure either. I love classical music too, but I'm only familiar with the big pop hits IYKWIM, someday I'll have to explore more.

As for what Fred Haines refers too, it's this trucking company: image

They'd park their truck completely across the alley to our rehearsal space blocking our access. Everytime we saw them I'd yell "Curse You Fred Haines" and thus a song name was born.

Of course I agree with everything Ivan said about Ferenc and my bandmates. Any bands out there who want to record and can get to the Bay Area, be sure to consider using Ferenc. A great guy to work with and he really knows surf music. He has lots of great ideas and the ability to pull them off.

One thing I learned in this recording process that I didn't know was how important post-production was. Frankly I had a lot of doubts about how some songs were going to turn out based on just the rough, raw mixes. So much happens in mixing and then mastering, it's like polishing a gem really. This assumes you spend the time working with the mixing engineer personally and hiring a pro. I spent way more time/money that I originally budgeted, but I could hear such great results that I felt it's worth it. "Money comes and goes but your album lasts forever" - to paraphrase some advice Ivan sent me regarding this. And he's totally right - Thanks Ivan!

And thanks to everyone for buying the album! Please take the time to post a little review on CDBaby and iTunes if you can.
Cheers

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF

"With great reverb comes great responsibility" - Uncle Leo

Last edited: Jul 02, 2011 10:43:13

Double-Crown-Records wrote:

Thanks Ivan - it's writing like that that makes me so
glad you help me out with the Continental Magazine. It
really is an awesome disc. When Ferenc and Ivan sent me
e-mails saying I should release the Tomorrowmen CD on
Double Crown, I was at a point where I already had a
full schedule of projects lined up and wasn't really
taking on anything new until late 2011. Well, that
changed the instant I heard the CD - there was no way I
was gonna let another label release this! I was even
more stoked when I saw the artwork - like Ivan said,
the artwork looks retro and modern at the same time.

Thanks to all of you that have ordered the CD from us
or the band - hope you're all diggin' it!

Another label? Confused Like who? As far as I know you have the field practically to yourself when it comes to high quality surf music, Sean.

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF

"With great reverb comes great responsibility" - Uncle Leo

I'm getting pretty jealous of everyone who've already got theirs and I haven't yet. It should be here soon. Well, good things come to those who wait. Big Grin

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

If you ordered from Double Crown and are still waiting for your copy, you should get it shortly. All Double Crown Music Club CD's, as well as orders through our website, have gone out. If you got an e-mail with the bonus track, it indicates your order has shipped (I sent the bonus track the same day I shipped your disc).

Sean
Double Crown Records
www.doublecrownrecords.com


Surf CD's / Vinyl / Fanzines / DVD's
The Desolate Coast - Time Slips Away CD
The Surf Junkies - Meet... The Surf Junkies CD-EP
Frankie & The Pool Boys - The Wet Season CD
Continental Magazine - Issue #32 w/21 Song CD

Double-Crown-Records wrote:

If you ordered from Double Crown and are still waiting
for your copy, you should get it shortly. All Double
Crown Music Club CD's, as well as orders through our
website, have gone out. If you got an e-mail with the
bonus track, it indicates your order has shipped (I
sent the bonus track the same day I shipped your disc).

Sean,

I got the bonus track on 6-28, along with confirmation that the CD had shipped. It always takes an extra day for us to get anything in the mail here. With the holiday coming, I don't expect to get the CD until 7-5 at the earliest. After reading the reviews, I'm certain is is worth any wait and you're not responsible for the mail.

Maybe Brian can add a "tongue in cheek" smiley face that I can use instead of the big grin.

I'll let you know how much I like it after I've listened to it.

Thanks,
Noel

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: Jul 02, 2011 13:01:05

Wow, what an amazing CD! That was worth waiting for. Danny, I posted a review on Amazon. Great job guys!

Paul

ColtsSurf wrote:

Wow, what an amazing CD! That was worth waiting for.
Danny, I posted a review on Amazon. Great job guys!

Thanks Paul - We really appreciate the review!

Danny Snyder

Latest project - Now That's What I Call SURF

"With great reverb comes great responsibility" - Uncle Leo

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