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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 91 - 03/06/04

The Beat Tornados
Scandinavian Interlude
Flipside Records

I really don't know what it is about Norway and surf. There are seldom any suitable waves for that kind of activity along our coast and the water is too cold to make it any pleasure most of the year. Windsurfing, however, was very popular in the 1980s. The brother of a friend of mine was hooked on windsurfing. He practised every day, even crawled out on the ice to find open waters midwinter. Eventually he made it to the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, without any success, but later won a world champion title. Some of the members of Beat Tornados, incidentally, grew up in the same area, though I guess Dick Dale's contribution to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack was a bigger source of inspiration to them.

Scandinavian Interlude is the Tornados' third album. The first mini album Pole Position was included in one of our menus way back in 1998. We missed badly on their second effort in 2001, the more than full-length Mission To Mir. Though it got ecstatic reviews elsewhere, at least in Norwegian newspapers. The interlude of the title of the new album might indicate the band has a few surprises up the sleeve for future releases(?). Both pictures on the cover and title indicate the Scandinavian connection. Here are trees, woods and mountains and no steep waves in sight. As with the previous albums, they include Scandinavian folk or folk-inspired melodies and a second rendition of Edvard Grieg, "Return Of The Griegster". One might suspect our old Grieg had a surf guitar in mind when he wrote the tune hundredandtwentysomething years ago... Though the Tornados have a broad-minded understanding of Scandinavia. The hilarious "Kreml De La Kreml" and "Mr. Preslov" sounds as vodka-drenched Russian as a surf melody might ever sound, whereas "Saljut 1" mixes a Russian sort of melody with a lush American steel guitar.

The band manages to expand the genre in more ways than the Scandinavian/Russian. The merry "Who's Afraid Of Fatima Blush?" and "Aquanaut" to some extent are as close to Tom Waits surf perfection as can be. The former is the highlight to me, quick, playful - even quirky in between - and amusing! "Xtabay" is the experimental ending of the album with strange and scary sound effects. And do I hear the distant scream of a lady captured somewhere deep in the wood?

"The Girl From Tuonela" on the other hand is closer to traditional surf of the calm and slow kind, a reflected moment one evening at the beach. Though with a name like Tuonela - somewhere far away in Finland, I think - there probably are no beaches in sight. The old live favourite "Theme From Pia Zawa", written for a Norwegian action cartoon heroine, also belong among the more traditional tunes. It's tough and tongue in cheek and another demonstration of the Tornados' handicraft. The members sure know how to handle their instruments and have learned their history books on surf and instrumental guitar rock. They supported Dick Dale last time he visited these shores, probably the best quality stamp they can get.

When reviewing Pole Position, I claimed a full-length album of instrumental surf certainly would have been too much for me. Scandinavian Interlude proves me wrong. The album embraces several eras and styles of instrumental popular music. The uses of piano, organ and even trombone are probably not accepted among surf purists. To me, still a non-surf expert, they make the album even more worthwhile. Surf's up!

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