I thought this review said it best of all:
Somewhere along the line, surf music ceased to have anything to do with actual surfing and migrated to kitsch. Dick Dale had "Pipeline", the Surfaris had "Wipe-Out!", and Man...or Astroman? had..."You Can't Get Good Riblets in Space". But although shuddering tremolo bars fit the image of a guy in floral print trunks, the music is mostly instrumental and as such essentially abstract, so you can make it mean anything you want it to. Even early surf rockers like the Ventures and the Tornados realized this and began to incorporate the astronautical, lounge, and kitsch elements that color most efforts in the genre these days.
So the term "surf" as it relates to music today basically just refers to music with lots of reverb and crazy guitar playing, which is fine-- you can acknowledge the roots without trying to turn them into branches. I can say pretty categorically that Croatia's Bambi Molesters are the best surf band in the world today, but given Man...or Astroman?'s long silence, Daikaiju certainly have a claim to the #2 spot. Much like fellow modern surf-rockers Los Straightjackets, the men of Daikaiju keep their identities secret, each represented by a mask in the band's press releases, which also feature a lot of fake Japanese-to-English translations like "Kabuki men deliver most high rocket impact!"
Students of Godzilla, Mothra, and Gamera know that Daikaiju is Japanese for "giant monster," and the Huntsville, Ala., quartet are obviously enamored with the most conspicuous aspects of Japanese popular culture, though they refrain from sticking soundclips from Mechagodzilla sequels all over their albums the way so many other surf groups recently have. They instead opt to let the music speak for itself, and when it does, it's impressive, to say the least. Though their sound is closer to Man...or Astroman? than anything else (it's of course possible that there are members of that band hiding out in their ranks) there's a certain degree of prog muscle behind all that reverbed shredding.
Surf is one of those funny genres where a fan basically knows what to expect and enjoyment comes from hearing it done really well, and Daikaiju delivers on that score, but there is one monumental surprise lurking in this mix in the form of album closer "Farewell to Monster Island". At almost nine minutes long it's nearly four times longer than the average surf instrumental and in place of the manic snare and ride cymbal of a surf beat, the band rides a skanking dub riddim, marrying two genres that in retrospect were born to love each other. The e-bowed interlude is something to hear, but even more impressive is the simple fact that the guitarists hiding behind these masks have a jazz-like sense of how to phrase a solo. The song is the kind of jam that bands just don't do any more, and it sort of makes me wish more would.
So in the end, Daikaiju is an impressive full-length debut for a band that's clearly got more up its sleeve than a few Trashmen 45s and tablature print-outs for "Rabble Rouser". The thing with the masks and stage names like Secret Asian Man and Brain Conflict is frankly little more than a distracting sideshow to the main event, which is of course the band's massive wave of prime surf. Grab your board.
-Joe Tangari, August 31, 2005