You’re driving for hours as the sun begins sinking slowly into the horizon. The air conditioning isn’t working, neither is the convertible roof – the heat is unbearable. The tank’s running on ‘E’ and you haven’t seen a station in miles. All the hotels seem to be occupied – as indicated by the dim, neon red glow of the ‘NO VACANCY’ signs as you pass by. Suddenly, you see a structure in the distance and hope your tank can carry you that far. Arriving, you pull into a deserted parking, hosting a seemingly abandoned roadside motel structurally reminiscent of a pyramid. The place gives off an eerie vibe, but you feel compelled to check it out. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Last Resort.
You pull up to the lobby entrance. Struggling, with no help in sight, you barely manage to wrangle your luggage from your car through the front doors. As if all this weren’t enough – the hinge on your suitcase handle snaps. Continuing on, the doors open with a slow, ominous creak as you step inside. The place reeks of stale cigarette ash, the hallway lights flicker, and it looks as though the place hasn’t been remodelled, let alone having been touched since the 70’s. Once again, you look around – no one. You check behind you – no one. You look forward and, suddenly, two figures, who weren’t there a moment ago seem to have appeared out of thin air… Startled, you drop your bags with a heavy thud.
Meet Tony Doni and Chelsea White – The Beach Bats. They’ll be managing your stay at the Last Resort.
Meet The Beach Bats
The Beach Bats are a Hamilton, Ontario psychedelic fusion two-piece packing a lot of sound. Self-described as “sleazy listening – like sipping margaritas by the pool of a seedy motel in a dry heat”, their music incorporates elements of punk, psychobilly, jazz, funk, doom metal, surf, blues, country and folk, which makes the sound as large and robust as it is chill and relaxed. The instrumentation is both raw and rigid while, at the same time, smooth and soothing.
A majority of the arrangements, vocals and instruments are written and performed by Tony Doni (lead/backing vocals, bass, pianos, keyboards, synthesizers, organ, drums and auxiliary Percussion) and Chelsea White (electric/acoustic guitars, 12-string acoustic) themselves. They also credit Gabriel Bitti (drums), Dan Gurman (pedal steel), Stephanie Pearl & Lauren Mikaela (backing vocals) and Darcy Hepner (saxophone) to achieve their full sound.
The Beach Bats cite Steely Dan, The Doors, John Zorn, Queens of the Stone Age as well as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, among many others as musical influences.
The narrative introducing this review basically encapsulates my feelings when I gave ‘Last Resort’ a few listens. It doesn’t feel as though it was constructed to be a concept album, but the tightness is there. It doesn’t have the self-awareness that iconic concept albums like Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ or Alice Cooper’s ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ convey. But it does feel as though the album wants you to relate to it in a similar fashion, to become absorbed in its atmosphere, just as a concept album would with a well-developed premise.
The lyrics are poetic, yet cynical, focusing on themes of melancholia, heartbreak and despair. The subject matter is dark and sombre, but delivered in a playful way. Musically, it comes across as someone in a drunken stupor making the best of a bunk situation. Think of it as being content with contempt or, another way to put it: stuck between a rock and a soft place.
Tracks like “How Long” (their lead single), “Mirage” and “Last Resort” feel like you’re going through the carefree stage of a solid buzz. “Built In The Lab” is where things take a turn. It’s the musical equivalent of having too much to drink. As the drums palpitate, the keyboards are wavy and dizzying. There’s a sense of erratic tension as Tony’s smooth Jim Morrison croon takes on more gruff and bark, akin to Tom Waits and what he would sound like descending into madness (if you’ve listened to Mr. Waits before, it’s not hard to imagine). The album regains its pace with “Country Drums”, a soothing instrumental – call it a morning after track following a rough night on the bottle. The final track, “New Home”, is like a sloshy hangover, as the guitars chug along with Tony’s raspy vocals.
‘Last Resort’ is executed fantastically. Each track is laden with a multitude of genres that don’t feel superimposed, rather interwoven with one another. Initially, I felt the tracks were a bit long but realized these aren’t just songs of any normal description – they’re thoughtfully composed and arranged. They provide an immersive sound for the listener to be pulled further into the intoxicating experience. I can also see the cross section of genres within each track appealing to audiences who appreciate any degree of the musical styles mentioned above. Otherwise, the clear effort and passion put into this project is something to admire in and of itself.
Although I personally would’ve liked to hear more up-tempo rhythm sections as heard in some of their punk/rock influences, it would’ve disrupted what, I feel, they were going for with this release. It’s evident where they draw their inspiration, but it’s their approach that truly makes The Beach Bats a remarkable and genuine act, and ‘Last Resort’ a must-listen.
So, rim that Bloody Mary with too much salt and be generous with the vodka, then kick back in the rancid heat and enjoy another day at the Last Resort!
7:00pm – 1:00am | Licensed / 19+ Event