[sic] Magazine

Beach Skulls – Las Dunas

Regularly to be heard as support artists by frequent gig-goers around the North West of England, Beach Skulls have always been better than their billing and their sophomore album, Las Dunas, goes some way to prove it. The 20-something trio debuted way back in 2013 with the loved-up Slow Grind and – perhaps a touch more world weary – their indie/garage-surf template hasn’t otherwise changed greatly five years on. Dreaming bigger and sunnier than their native Widnes (a move to Barcelona is planned by the end of the summer), Ry Viera’s creaking vocal nevertheless leans more towards Manchester than it does Liverpool, the band tumbling together a collection of wistful mid-fi jangles in keeping too with much of the city’s current indie crop.

It’s misleading to peg Beach Skulls as an entirely unrushed indie-surf outfit though because they remain a garage-rock band heart and there are more than a few dangers lurking in Las Dunas despite its abundant summery melodies. The twisted, dark influence of Black Lips can be felt during the grooves of “Sacred Citrus”, for example, and the rickety shuffles and ratcheting licks of “Come Undone” come bookended by a blistering racket of muscular drums and feedback, Viera’s unsteady falsetto the crest of this threatening wave. The standout “Ain’t Easy” too comes from suddenly gloomy skies, a shadowy metronome picked out on top of a bass undertow, spectral surf hanging ghost-like in the miasma. Obvious Dick Dale scales aside, often Beach Skulls’ music takes a back seat in favour of Viera’s Jeremy Earl (Woods)-esque croak, but here – a kind of acoustic, post-punk apocalyptic surf thing – it’s just as engaging and probably more so.

The day to these tracks’ night, however, unexpected hand-drums and wood percussion relax the mood on lightly psychedelic jam “Soma Holiday” while “Love And Sex” settles in for some sultry indie-funk that wouldn’t be out of place on the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra album, coincidentally and similarly titled Sex and Food. Also a ripple rather than a gnarly swell, the gentle closer “No Worries” sets over Las Dunas as if a leaf falling on a millpond, a Northern lullaby that’s as much a goodbye as we’re going to get before the band head for literally sunnier climes. Hasta la vista, boys.

Best track: “Ain’t Easy”

~Las Dunas is out now on PNKSLM.~