Ten Speed Racer – Eskimo Beach Boy

Ten Speed Racer
Eskimo Beach Boy

Ten Speed Racer’s Eskimo Beach Boy reminds me of nights out at the bar back in college. Every so often, I’d meet someone at the bar that seemed really familiar to me, and even thought I’d never met them before, I felt a sort of automatic kinship with them, like I had subconsciously known them for all my life. Listening to Eskimo Beach Boy, I couldn’t help but think that I’d heard this CD before, even though I’d never heard of Ten Speed Racer until my package of review material showed up at work.

Of course, this conundrum helps make this record such a smooth listening experience. The band acknowledges its influences without directly channeling them, helping the disc sound both familiar and new at the same time.

“Car Crash” kicks off the disc with a Rentals-esque piece of pop. Dermot Barrett’s vocals slightly recall Mark Lanegan here as he watches the driver of the car stumble bloody from the wreckage, wondering, “Had she killed her passenger?” The song takes a twist when Barrett finds “What I didn’t realize was that I saw it from the car / Had I been the passenger?” giving the song a very morbid vibe to go along with the otherwise chipper music.

“Knife” is a short little guitar pop ditty a la Sugar or Teenage Fanclub, while “January” is a more lulling, acoustic-based track with a cool slide-guitar piece during the song’s bridge. The first three tracks are pretty solid, but they’re blown out of the water by the fuzz-guitar romp of the disc’s title track. The one-note piano spikes in the background drive the already pulsing “Eskimo Beach Boy” into a furious tone. This track reminds me of old Spoon material (especially the driving “Quincy Punk Episode”).

The slow, melancholy drone of “Sidewalk Monkey Typhoid” winds down and leads into “Hang on Starlight,” a dreamy, flowing pop song with a very spacey atmosphere. The focal guitar line for “Starlight” drags over into the album’s other standout track, the space-rock sprawl of “Lunar Junkies.” The guitar line continues on underneath the carefully measured roll of the track as it flows along like a space cowboy’s sad, sad song. When the song winds down, the original guitar line resurfaces and fades out itself, creating a really spooky vibe.

“Ballad of Greedy Man” sticks out on the disc with an out-of-nowhere alt-country groove. Remarkably, it works well to pick the disc up after the previous six-minute space-rock dirge. “Death to Disco” is another Spoon-like track, though this one is a little more controlled than the last one. The chorus is remarkably catchy, thanks to the cool stop-and-go crunchy rhythm guitars. The nine-minute drone of “Yo-Yo” seems to be the only regrettable track on the disc. The guitar drone and mechanical beat would’ve been better served to cut off at around the four-minute mark. Still, it’s easy to simply hit stop on the CD player, seeing as this is the last track on the disc.

All in all, Eskimo Beach Boy is a pretty solid debut effort for Ten Speed Record. Barrett’s voice mimics Mark Lanegan’s on more than one track, and musically, the band alternately resonates between Teenage Fanclub, Spoon, and the Dandy Warhols. All in all, it adds up to a familiar, yet fresh listen.