Reviewed by: Max Miler
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Jacuzzi Boys are from Los Angeles. After all, they extolled the virtues of Los Angeles on a song called “Los Angeles” on their sophomore album Los Angeles. (Okay, just kidding — the album was called Glazin’.) And their follow-up self-titled effort was soaked in the kind of hazy, hypnagogic psychedelia often associated with that omnipresent hub of West Coast culture. But, as it stands, the Jacuzzi Boys actually hail from Miami, a city some (I assume) might call the Los Angeles of the East Coast. Fittingly, though, Ping Pong, their latest album and first to be released on their own Mag Mag Records, was written and recorded in the City of Angels, allowing the Floridian trio to steep this batch of twelve tunes in enough Californication to make Anthony Kiedis feel freaky-leak-a-ding-dong.
Speaking of California, the group Ping Pong opener “Lucky Blade” most resembles is undoubtedly Wavves. Remember Wavves? Here, Jacuzzi Boys capture that same mix of scuzzy garage pop simplicity and dreamy unreality in which Nathan Williams traded some six or seven years back. Frontman Gabriel Alcala’s falsetto vocals soar over his bashed-out guitar chords, the former drenched in reverb and the latter bathed in crunchy distortion. Elsewhere, the band offers up ‘60s-style beach party pop (“Boys Like Blood” and “Iodine”) and upbeat, punky bruisers (“Refrigeration” and “New Cross”).
Every now and then, the Boys slow things way down, like the late-period Jeff the Brotherhood-recalling “Seventeen,” or the six-and-a-half-minute outro “Tip Of My Tongue / Edge Of My Brain.” Often, though, the band kicks into the kind of driving, mid-tempo groove that dominated their previous album. In addition to the aforementioned “Lucky Blade,” “Can’t Fight Forever” and “Gamma” serve as chances for bassist Danny Gonzalez and drummer Diego Monasterios to hang out on a propulsive pulse. Gonzalez even gets to show off a little on the bass-focused “Easy Motion.” The closest analog for Monasterios is “Zoo,” which features more abstract instrumentation, putting his drumming in the spotlight.
In the past, the Jacuzzi Boys sometimes came off as a bit unfocused. Their sound always orbited somewhere in the garage rock universe, but, like a castoff satellite, it tended to drift all over the place. On Ping Pong, they’ve begun to turn this potential weakness into a strength. Their eclecticness feels more focused, even if that sounds oxymoronic. Now, when they change gears, you feel less reticent to see what kind of psychedelic excursions they’re heading off on. I guess that’s what the California vibe is all about — you’ve just gotta’ let go and feel it, maaaan.