Every now and then you find a band with a name so great you have a sense for their sound immediately. This is the case with Austrian band Electric Ray and the Shockers, and even more the case with their debut album title: California Torpedo. Tumbling surf vibes and no shortage of electric darkness, Electric Ray and the Shockers find the fun in the sinister.
The surf-punk strikes hard on the first track, “Long Valley Dance”, which crunches along with dark-wave atmosphere and a hint of post-punk nostalgia that is expanded upon in the calmed down later track “California Torpedo”. “Trouble” — or “T.R.O.U.B.L.E” as it’s spelled for the video — uses panicky vocalization to carry the album to a darker place, a place perhaps found in the interlude-esque “Dead”.
“Memory Hunter” is the introduction to the more organic side of Electric Ray and the Shockers. The vocals take a note from Bob Dylan and half-speak over the lovely backing instrumentation. But the album unity is not lost as the surf sounds return with the rolling bass of “Wake Up”. California Torpedo has a notable variety of sonic influence, particularly when it comes to Electric Ray’s vocals. “Tempt Me” features a growl while album closer “You Make Time Fade to a Laugh” seems inspired by the chill tones of Lou Reed. “Night is a Woman” is an internal roam, rooted in sounds that evoke heartbeats and the filling of lungs, it shifts in a personal way as the lyrics become instructional.
“Yes, we’ve come a long, long way,” are featured lyrics in “You Make Time Fade to a Laugh”, which is the longest title and track on the record, at over five and a half minutes. But there’s authenticity. As the album closes, we feel the emotional depth of the journey taken by the band, and the one the album carries you along on.