Back to Articles
New City Chicago - 10/20/99

A blast from Chicago's surf past; the Greaseballs' all-instrumentals do more than ape Dick Dale.

The good thing about doing all instrumentals is that you can think up goofy titles without writing lyrics. The Greaseballs take full advantage of this on their new record, "Wake Up & Smell The Greaseballs" (Pug). I'm sure they had a good time naming these songs ("Sci-Fi & the Moonburners"), and since they were attached to good songs, it's all the better. The Greaseballs' previous lease on life was in the mid- to late-eighties, as the "other" instrumental surf-rockin' band in town (besides Spies Who Surf). Somehow they didn't last quite as long as Spies, and probably drew about half the same audience, but those who knew, knew--their name continued to be invoked from time to time.

There was a very successful reunion gig about four or five years ago at Schubas, and they've come back for a full-length CD and another reunion show. Not only do they have the chops, but they also have the rock 'n' roll pedigree. Theresa Drda has apparently replaced Mia Park (now with the Baltimores) as THE local rockabilly drummer of note, laying down the big beat with several bands through the years (most notably the Honeybees). Lead guitarist Bill Bulinski is a former member of sixties' Minnesota maulers, the Electras, who are renowned for their classic garage sides (but who started out, pre-Beatles, as an all-instrumental combo).

The disc itself is a remarkably varied affair. The first two songs ("Sci-Fi," "Ride The Texas Surf") are the standard Dick Dale "stuttering guitar" knockoffs, not bad for what they're worth, but from there, the band sets its sights higher. "Triller" boasts some nice country-style pickin', and "Hoboken Hustle" sounds like Creedence (or Southern Culture on the Skids minus the gags). Rhythm guitarist Manny Guevara even breaks out with the National lap steel on a couple of cuts. The band, along with Patrick Halliwell, did a good job with the production, sounding clean but not slick (especially the drums). If you've heard Billy Flynn's recent non- vocal experiments, you might as well pick up on the Greaseballs.

James Porter, New City Chicago

The Greaseballs
"Wake Up And Smell The Greaseballs"
(Pug Records) 3 stars

As usual, surf music rides a series of waves. The fact that the genre is on a down cycle doesn't mean that bands cease making good music, and the Chicago-based Greaseballs are a case in point. Surf is difficult to play, but at it's best should sound as if you could go home and do whatthe Greaseballs guitarist Bill Bullinski does with no effort at all.

The 17 originals display a timelessness that makes them sound like covers. "Hoboken Hustle" churns with a theme reminiscent of "The In Crowd", while "Froggy Went A Surfin'" will trigger Ventures flashbacks. But this exquisitely executed music offers some of the most important elemens of killer surf action - coolness. Bulinski's guitar work, rather than pyrotechnics, consists of a seemingly endless series of exactly the right notes in the right places. Drummer Theresa Drda carries the right blend of propulsion and reserve, keeping a rock-solid pace, and the throbbing of bassist Carl Hayano provides a gutteral foundation.

- Kevin M. Williams, the Chicago Sun Times. 3 Stars (11/21/99)

Russian Language

Rockabilly Central | Tours | Chicago | Swing | Photos | Articles | Reviews | Movies | Links

Get Smart! lisa wertman marc koch frank loose kansas chicago One For All remotes