Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Atlantics—
Now It's Stompin' Time!


Released 1963 on CBS
The Seth Man, March 2002ce
1963 was the year that saw the release of the first two albums by The Atlantics, an Australian instrumental quartet with the accent on ‘mental.’ Not content to simply raise holy hell on just their first LP (“Bombora”) they not only refused to slacken their pace in the least with album #2, “Now It’s Stompin’ Time!” but surpassed it. Both fiery and accomplished, “Now It’s Stompin’ Time!” is frighteningly raw for its time and just plain TOO EARLY: it’s certainly one of the most uniquely experimental and out there surf records ever. But who WERE these Australians geniuses/maniacs, anyway?!!

The Atlantics were the killer double Strat attack of James Skiathitis and Theo Penglis cut flush as you please with the redoubtable rhythm section of Bosco Bosanac on bass and Peter Hood on drums. Remember these strange and unpronounceable names for they are the names of four gods, misleadingly depicted on the back cover misleadingly as four young grinning pals barely out of high school in matching suits and string ties posed with their instruments. But once the music commences, you’ll know otherwise because their music bleeds and craves to insistently push forward, onward and upwards...Kinda makes you cast your mind back to the time when half of all of our selves was once a single sperm cell fighting all the other flagellating zygotin’ wannabes for one chance to set the controls to the heart of the egg. And as for the respective members of The Atlantics, well -- judging by the their ever self-rising standards, they must’ve made all their competitors eat huge clouds o’ womb dust way back in the good ol’ uterus days, betcha anything...

Opening with the A-side to their recently released single, “The Crusher” is a reoccurring nightmare of annihilating insanity. It’s as insane as the lead off, eponymous number from their previous “Bombora” LP and is every inch a manic panic. The opening descending/nightmare chords are roughly shook out rapid, reverbed and red-hot even as it slows the pace to accommodate the metric tonne of reverb attached to it, as though to keep it from straying out of phase. The opening riff returns and repeats four or five times and flies too close to eternal fry-out and ultimate fadeout in a Joe Meek-inspired batch of freakazoid echo. What just happened? “Coral Island” is far calmer yet just as complex in its near-mathematical precision, akin to the gently rising and falling of a supine and smiling female’s body during a late afternoon snooze by billowing, gossamer curtains. Said love interest catches the eye of our hero. Soon, further aural undercurrents of a playful and sexy screwball comedy romps are hinted at on the other side of the island. The journey there for shenanigans aplenty takes all day, conjured up by its gallivanting, carefree airs with just a hint of pursuit. The guitar riff charts an easy course rounding the harbour, up the beach, over the rocks, by the waterfall so that by nightfall, our hero is exhausted and near tearful, parked like some sorry-assed driftwood on the moonlit beach...but what’s this? Miss Sassypants has already creeped up behind him and has put her hands over his eyes so that by song’s end, she’s already kissing him: with one leg cocked upwards, no less AND their profiles are framed by the moon, natch. Oh, the mighty narrative powers of The Atlantics...Even “Tequila Stomp” (a cover of the even-then hoary chestnut, “Tequila”) is transformed into The Atlantics’ own personal aural story line resplendent with a super-echoed filigree that replaces the tune’s only spoken word (‘Tequila!’) with stuttering accents. There’s a mid section where the guitar just shoots across the whole track for no foreseeable reason with a sound located between a Binson Echo-wrecked recording of fabric ripping or just plain splitting itself down the middle into sheer abstraction. “Tahitian Waters” is an exotic isle instrumental where gently faded guitar riffs ripple across a hideaway lagoon under blue skies. Aaahh... the rhythm guitar strums madly in the background to keep the pressure insistent, allowing the lead guitar to accordion at will into a welter of chords which compact into a dense solo seconds in length. And all the while, a constant tom roll rolls throughout and continues well beyond the fade. “Teddy Bear’s Picnic Stomp” is a strident beer-hall fave for flat-footed, partying slobs but even on this, the only other cover version besides “Tequila Stomp” The Atlantics apply their special blend of finessy-messy to it and make it their own. It’s knees up heavy on the strident snare hits and overall dinosaur trudge speed, even as the lead guitar’s melody line starts to break up into connect-the-molecules mid-tune, the reverb acting as a drop shadow to its bold, display type chords. “Hootenanny Stomp” Features that “Nashville Sound”, but at Mach whatever speed and approximating Chet Atkins as a session guitarist for an instrumental Chipmunks album with additional helium. It’s a shit-kick-ass instrumental at drop dead speed and attack as Skiathitis’ masterful lead guitar chops down with blistering leads over the blurry strumming of the backing rhythm.

Side two begins with the mercilessly riffed and goofy, scatter-shot “The Gremlin From The Kremlin” as waves of skittering, smeared runs up and down the neck of Stratocaster guitar are about as jagged and distorted as the drums are measured out to full-gallop. But watch out for “Shark Attack.” Deep and resonant tones of thick-stringed Stratocaster lines reverb-b-b-b-b richly to next year only to modulate into a melody line which keeps shifting into a higher pitch until a lifeguard bell gets urgently rung to signal the frothing frenzy strummed at top speed over the guitar’s bridge. It trades off to the bass, which then imitates the same manic strumming at the same speed into as tangled and jarring a mess of pure noise as was ever generated in 1963. The guitar melody returns, and so does the bell. But mere seconds later, as represented by the opening riff which is now twice as sublime and smooth sailing, the boys are back on dry land inside their cabana and already toasting a successful escape from peril. “S.O.S. (Stomp On Stomp)” sees distress signal guitar transmissions over restrained, tight drumming and THAT bass line: played without a pick, no less. A middle section of tremendous abandon sees propulsive swings up and down the neck by all three guitars thrust away from their bodies as they recoil greatly by the impact of such neck-breaking actions. Everything’s getting so into the groove and detuned at the same time...until the guitar sounds the familiar and echoed S.O.S. code once more to fade’s end. “Stompede” sees them go one better as pounding tom-toms and a descending bass line enters, as does a battered tambourine. But for the rest of the song, the guitars only get detuned, bent out of shape and generally echoed into oblivion as they rattle in anguish as though being belaboured mercilessly with foundry implements rather than crude electronic echo and guitar picks. This skittering, echoed and frenzied freak out continues as drum rolls rebound all over the place into one of the earliest rock’n’roll ‘noise’ jams, ever. “Stompede” is truly fucked.

“Arabian Surf” returns to a bouncy simplicity but it’s for the last time, because “Stompin’ Time” is the full throttle, rockin’ finale, and the boys go for broke here -- like they haven’t for the entire album. Unbearably sharp riffing raises to conspire beyond rockabilly freak out decorum. But even with the rapid buckshot of a drum solo, it maintains ever-heightening degrees of intensity. “Go on!” cries brave drummer Peter Hood. But the longer they continue, the more the track grinds and melts down ever so s-l-o-w-l-y until the final guitar flourish of relief ends it all: the song, the album. The boys have finally taken five after hanging ten for so long.
Passionate music and nothing less.