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Album Review

This sophomore release is actually a debut in a couple of ways, marking the first studio album for the Blue Hawaiians as well as a first taste of their original material. To this end, Sway stays afloat gracefully in uncharted waters with a sound that soothes, grooves, and cruises at modest speeds. Although the album's a bit formless as it strolls out of the starting gate, their premiere, Live at the Lava Lounge, opened in much the same way, building momentum as it progressed. Here, the album just starts to show flames curling around the edges by track three, the Mancini-penned "Banzai Pipeline." Michael Murphy adds the right age of cheese to the track on the Hammond B-3, here and elsewhere. The fun continues with a curtsey and a submissive smile during "Casino," featuring Japanese vocals by Karu Mansour — it's an island lullaby that evokes clichés, nostalgia, and geishas in grass skirts. The songs continue cruising toward the sweltering coastline by way of convertibles, zoot suits, and bowling shirts, only to arrive under the grass hut for "Martini Five-0," the most sublime version of the TV theme heard in some time — it's Jack Lord after solving the big case and sharing a cold one with Danno. "Swingin' Hula Girl" features bassman Mark Fontana on vocals and some fine Hawaiian steel guitar work by new member Gary Brandin from the Vanduras. "Drop the Hammer Max!" has both a great live sound and the rhum-bunctious pounding of Tom Maxwell on drums. "Sharkskin Saddle" tips a ten-gallon hat to the cowboys in a genre-blending theme from guitarist Mark Sproull that skims the sonic surface of country, jazz, and blues. "Charade" and "Tortolla" elevate upwards to somewhere around the James Bond versus Tarantino atmosphere in their own distinctive way, but it's "Drunk Man Noodle" that finally breaks the sound barrier — a drag-race trio of welcome ferocity. Brief as it is, it's a much-needed energy boost, and the longest the claws are going to get this time out. Next, as if collecting themselves, the band smooths out their hair again for a reprise theme of "Da Cat," as if to say, "just kidding with the angst." The album-closer, "Element 86," is a mysterious, seven-minute swarm of guitar noodles and drum rolls that rise and fall in the spirit of improvisation for inspiration's sake — or is it the other way around? Track for track, Sway maintains a more languid and restrained energy. The waves weren't as good that day, the mahi mahi wasn't as fresh as it could've been, but hey — it's still Hawaii.

Customer Reviews

Classic Surf Album

I can remember these guys early on at the Wildcat in SB. Standing there darkly dressed with dark shades in a dark bar. They cast a perfect sound for those mellow ocean air evenings. Smooth and subdued and highly thematic. They are so skilled. I was inspired to pick up Sway then and I'm so glad I did. It captures their essence as a polished club band perfectly. Their sound is slick and the songs are well arranged. It's just a great surf album with a bit of stylish film noir like sound that makes it such a cool album to listen to. Sway is a great creative and original accomplishment and a great surf album.

It’s missing “Banzai Pipeline"

Otherwise very good but it is missing one of the best songs, even though the review mentions it by name!


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The L.A.-based Blue Hawaiians formed in 1994 when bassist/vocalist Mark Fontana, guitarists Mark Sproull and Bron Tieman, and drummer Tom Maxwell did a favor for a friend by playing at the opening of her new nightclub, the Lava Lounge. Both the group and the club became favorites with L.A. hipsters, as they combined retro exotica with a seedy, slightly dark edge, and director Quentin Tarantino was one of the band's earliest fans. The Hawaiians added to their kitsch-noir mystique by claiming to be...
Full Bio
Sway, The Blue Hawaiians
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Surf
  • Released: Mar 17, 1998

Customer Ratings

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