The Escatones, “Out of Sight Out of Mind”/“East Beach Stomp”
The Escatones make perfect sense for where they’re from. They’re surf-rock, yes, but they’re not surf-rock in the way that bands from places with clear-blue, crystalline water are surf-rock; instead, they’re dirty and messy and weird and a little bit scary, just like the stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast the trio calls home, where the water’s muddy and full of chemicals that — hey, who knows? — are probably bad for you in some way, and the surfers don’t get big, clean, reliable waves but fight their way through windblown chop to catch three-footers (unless there’s a hurricane coming, anyway).
Now, don’t take that to mean I hate the Gulf or anything; hell, I love the beach (and we’ll get back to why later on). But when people from places where the beaches and the water look like something out of a glossy travel mag go to Galveston or Surfside or Freeport or wherever else along our murky coastline first see what we Texans call “the beach,” they always seem to gag a little bit. Their eyes get wide, and they go, “This is your beach?”, with a little bit of a condescending smirk and a look that says, “You poor bastard, you have no idea what a beach actually looks like.”
But hey, fuck them. It’s our beach, not theirs, after all. And for our beach, The Escatones are absolutely, wonderfully spot-on.
On A-side “Out of Sight Out of Mind,” the band staggers through a dim, confused haze, with jangly/wavery, watery-sounding, surf-country guitars that sound belligerent but uncertain at the same time. At first blush, I can’t help but think of ’60s folk-dirge revivalists The Dutchess & the Duke, but then about halfway through, things start to spiral out of control, erupting slowly into a widening mess of psych-fuzz noise, with guitars courtesy of the Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary (no, seriously). It’s dirty and freaky, and it encapsulates the band’s home territory damn near perfectly.
(As a side note, when I first listened to this, I somehow managed to get the song playing twice, in two different players, at the same time but off by just a few seconds…and weirdly, it kind of worked, making the whole thing even more echoey and otherworldly than it would be otherwise. Your mileage may vary on that one.)
Cool as “Mind” is, though, while it plays I find myself looking forward to hearing the B-side, “East Beach Stomp”. It’s a more straightforward track, definitely, a guitars-and-drums instrumental that rambles steadily along those sludgy, tar-flecked beaches folks down here love to hate. It’s surfy, yes, but also far closer to Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western scores than pretty much anybody outside of Death Valley (the band, not the place) has ever gotten.
There’s something about the track that drags me backwards, too, to long weekends spent down on abandoned stretches beach northeast of Bolivar Peninsula, where we’d drive around the barricades on 87 when it turns north towards High Island and take the washed-out road as far as our battered vehicles could stand it. Then we’d crash on the gritty, trashed-strewn beach, drinking and walking and playing music and laying in the blazing Southeast Texas sun, which would ferociously bake our brains inside our little skulls ’til nightfall, when the luminescent goo the waves washed in would light up our footprints on the sand.
And then, the song’s over, and I’m left feeling like I’ve got an early-morning drive back home ahead of me, the car full of silent, sunburned, hung-over people, all staring out the windows as the dunes give way to shacks and then freeway, wondering when we’ll all get to go back there again.