14.11.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Surprise Hotel

It is an all too familiar scenario. Your alarm goes off at 7.15am in the middle of November. With your eyes screwed-balled, you look out the window. A blanket of fog covers the street; dim street lamps are on, as unhappy cars roll by through endless sheets of drizzle and with a sigh you think: “Where in God’s holy beard has the summer gone?” Memories of Bestival fill your head and, along with the realisation that the closest thing we currently have to summer is Washed Out, chances are you’ll probably end up spending the rest of the day feeling incredibly nostalgic… unless of course you have Surprise Hotel programmed as the sound of your alarm clock.

The moment the opening riff dances into your ears it is literally impossible not to sit upright and take notice. If you think the idea of Santana meeting Vampire Weekend on a beach in the Bahamas sounds like a bastardised project from a bad travel agency, think again – here it sounds like the best holiday ever. And when the highlife sound of a carnival parade bursts into the room the best thing to do is embrace it – even if it is 7am. Maybe even sit up and do some sort of Hula shimmy or wiggle your shoulders like a middle-aged woman on a cruise ship. This is the best possible way to start any day. Guaranteed to get you hopping down the stairwell and out on the street like Gene Kelly in a Bermuda shirt.

Musical elements of any sun-kissed culture imaginable are in attendence in some form or another – from Rio to 60s San Francisco, Hebrew to Afrikaan – all rolled into perfect synergy. The delightfully tongue-in-cheek Eagles-style crooning of co-founder Luke Top hammers home the party vibe and the rest of the guys (their nationalities spanning Los Angeles, Israel, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina) can be heard having an amazing time manning an ensemble of Djembe-skinned drums, Banana bells and claves, goat-toe rattles, Chekeres, Axtse shell gourds and a massive tambourine. Its tightness is no surprise either, considering the involvement of We Are Scientist’s ex-drummer, Michael Tapper, two members of Foreign Born and Orpheo McCord (drummer of The Fall).

Think, a poppy version of Extra Golden – a band involving the guitarist from Weird War, another Western man who studied Benga music and a bunch of Kenyans. Yeah, it’s cheesy. That’s its charm. It’s dripping with humour and the video, shot through fountains of orange soda, sums it up perfectly. The moment the band, or should I say collective (as there are nine of them), swing in as a fully syncronised Conga with their instruments strapped to their chests complete with Ray-Ban’s and wicker hats, you can’t help but raise a smirk. Not forgetting the old dudes doing the wavy arm dance in the Jacuzzi. This is without a doubt, hands down, the soundtrack to our summer – shame it’s three months too late.

Surprise Hotel is out on the 16th November on IAMSOUND and an album is due 25th Jan 2010

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