Jet Age






I’m utterly excited, and it took me a long time to put this review out, but if you want the most important message of the Euroboys’s 1997 album Jet Age in a nutshell, scroll down to the final sentence of this review to catch my drift. If you do know this important work already, you know where my excitement derives from. This Norse band from Oslo, founded 1990 and formerly known as Kåre And The Cavemen, came up with their debut under their new name at a time when the Exotica genre was slowly resurfacing in the form of Lounge music, DVD releases of old paradisiac movies and Hawaii-based Don Tiki’s The Forbidden Sounds Of Don Tiki which, probably not coincidentally, was released in 1997 as well.


Bandleader and drummer Kåre »Joaó« Pedersen is joined on Jet Age by bassist Dag F. Gravem, guitarist Knut Schreiner and percussionist Anders Møller. Together they come up with a whopping amount of 15 tracks, only two of them with rudimentary vocals and only one being a rendition, the remaining skits being exclusively instrumental and sometimes embellished with film snippets and related samples. The band’s style is definitely rooted in Surf Rock or Rockabilly, but all of their compositions are very colorful and always highly melodious. While this album might be guitar-driven overall, it can be rightfully put into the Exotica genre as well, for the band augments their tracks with vibraphone droplets, horn eruptions, mellow organs, galactic synthesizers and exotic percussion. As varied as the instrumental side is the stylistic spectrum, ranging from proper Surf Rock tunes over spy movie-evoking keys to the surprisingly easygoing mellowness of a few downbeat examples. 15 tracks seem to be very much, and not all of them can meet the demands of the Exotica crowd … or can they?


Enter The Dragon comes up with a lavish concoction of typical Chinese keys played on surf guitars, a screaming Bruce Lee in the background, cascading funk keyboards, wah-wah guitar backings and a stunning choice of exotic percussion such as maracas, claves and galloping bongos. Lounge-like synth textures float in the background, reminding everyone that the band is always keen on mixing a certain flavor of cozy sublimeness into the mix. The added saxophone melody rounds this short tune off. It leads the listener to the cheeky Monkeyface, a proper Rockabilly song with various surf guitars and lava-red glowing Hammond organs whose sustains traverses through the guitar thicket. The surf ratio in this song is huge, for the multiple sunrise-laden chords evoke the picture of a surfer’s beach perfectly.


One of the few Exotica tracks that fades out, it makes room for the sneaky vibraphone-heavy spy theme Inspector ‘71 with its omnipresent double bass backings, desperado guitar melody, and the gorgeous euphony of twanged steel guitars whose finish oscillates in a warped way. A mellow alto flute takes the melody over in the middle section, and it is here where the band shows how to mix vivaciously mellifluous ingredients into a potentially harsh and dangerous skit. Rubber City Revolution reuses the rhythm of Inspector ‘71 but is loaded with gleaming horn sections, quavering organs and frantic steel guitars whose punchiness and plasticity works terrific with the incisive staccato of the brass layers. A sizzling-hot song, part Surf Rock, part jazzy – the perfect music for a buddy movie car chase scene of your choice.


While Grenoble Village Hotel broadens the style of the band even further with a laid-back maracas groove, silky couplings of trembling synthesizer textures with similar funk guitars. Due to the relaxed atmosphere, the Euroboys leave room for the background ambience to shine, and while no field recordings or other curlicues are used, the incessantly shimmering synth flow in the background boosts the convivial majesty of this song. The claves click all the better in these surroundings. Point Of No Return returns to Rockabilly lands with melodramatic spy flavor hooks on both the keyboards and the guitars. Howling organs and sunset chords evoke the feeling of a necessary operation. Definitely a bit eerie at times, this song pushes the boundaries of the good mood, for it is the slightest bit gloomy, but surprises big time in its final phase when the tempo shifts and lets the song end with the long mellow sustains of the organs and guitars.


The following Girlfriend From Tacoma is the five and a half minutes long centerpiece of the album, merging proper vibraphone-stirred cocktail Exotica with laid back guitar-fueled scintillae and the pastel-colored dusky sustain of a Rock organ; topping these successful individual parts, however, is the sudden shift that occurs in the chorus: the band mumbles along incomprehensibly to an ginormously melodious breeze of dynamically pulsating Los Angeles sunshine. A huge track! Next is Satan’s Little Helper, and it is way more acidy with glaringly screeching electric guitars, fulminant percussion interludes and rather reduced organ streams. This is the obvious Rock song of the album during which the band leaves the Exotica and surf genre. Mr. Wild Guitar, despite its auspicious name, is more of a hymnic sing-along take on the Surf Rock genre with golden-gleaming steel guitar chords, frenzied castanets and powerfully rudimentary lyrics like »Hey, Mr. Wild Guitar«. Utterly melodious and friendly, this is one of the band’s signature tunes that cater to the humming crowd.


Do You Know The Way To Monterey? puts Italo piano melodies, coruscating vibraphone mystique and dizzy steel guitar chords into a mixer and adds silky, less punchy brass intersections with flangered organs on top of it. The result is this slightly melancholic spy theme which presents a great range of instruments and returns to a care-free attitude in its chorus and becomes even stronger in the interwoven bridge where the horns are playing a rising melody. Surprisingly reduced and calming despite its many instruments, this song is a strong favorite of mine.


Hong Kong Cockfight relies first and foremost on its thunderous percussion – a first on this album, as the percussion is varied but never as punchy as the guitars – while the quickly paced surf guitar melodies are secondary this time, as are the clichéd Chinese screams. While Orgone Valley ventures into sneaky Hillbilly lands with its banjo superstructure, spectral organs and nocturnal guitar backings, the Euroboys present an utterly powerful guitar-overloaded Rock version of Hava Nagila, called Hava Negilah. The guitar soundscape is thick, but there’s also room enough for a gorgeous bongo groove and pompous synth choirs! Another signature track of the album. The next track, Siamese Island, is driven by steel guitars and classic drum kit percussion, and it is only in the second verse that the guitar dominance is attenuated by ghost-like Space Age theremin synths and eupeptic organs.


Their sustain leads to the final title track Jet Age, an unsuspectedly exotic guitar mélange with added wah-wah effects, frizzling cymbals and iridescent vibraphone notes. This is literally music made for end credits. This overly auroral tune doesn’t hurt anyone in its first phase … but there’s a second one in which things are turned up a notch with sundown organs and livelier rhythms. And with these impressions ends one of the most important Surf Rock-flavored neo-Exotica albums.


The scope of Jet Age is unbelievable. Even though this is an entirely instrumental album – despite Girlfriend From Tacoma and Mr. Wild Guitar – one can sing along to most of the tunes. The guitar sections might be rather complex most of the time, but from the connection with the blissful chords and the speedy rhythms arises a powerful liveliness and mesmeric feeling. That this album was so perfectly carved out back in 1997 when the Lounge and Exotica movement was slowly re-established but had not yet fully returned is absolutely mind-blowing and awe-inspiring to me.


Released in Norway in the same year as Don Tiki’s aforementioned The Forbidden Sounds Of Don Tiki, it proves that the awakening of the Tiki gods took place simultaneously in different parts of the world, and in places you wouldn’t expect it. In order to fully enjoy this album, listeners shouldn’t be too afraid of all kinds of guitars, even those that weren’t necessarily part of vintage Exotica. As this record is also spiced with weird samples, a welcome amount of vibraphone goodness and warmly trembling organs, the results are refreshingly varied and less focused on the guitar side of the spectrum than one might imagine.


The term masterpiece is always critical, I know, especially when we’re talking about supposedly ephemeral genres like Surf Rock, Exotica or Lounge. But since the formula of the Euroboys is so complex and their styles so varied, I am very fond of the idea to call the album just that. If it was released today, I’d be very impressed by its 60’s resemblances and vivid presentation. Since it was released in 1997 and is therefore an important contemporary artifact that can be rightfully linked to the resurgence of Exotica in Europe, I am saying it with the last sentence of this review: Jet Age by the Euroboys is a masterpiece.


Exotica Review 083: Euroboys – Jet Age (1997). Originally published on Jun. 16, 2012 at