By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
The SeaMonsters are cursed—not by voodoo, not by being born under a bad sign, not even by accidentally disturbing some ancient burial ground and unleashing unspeakable forces of chthonic evil beyond the ken of normal men. No, they're cursed with something even worse, at least for a rock & roll band: bracing honesty. Take this wrist-slitting comment from drummer Pete Deeble:
"I spent $7,000 making records and made back $50," he sighs. "I do it because I love it and I'm stupid."
Fuck, yeah, we say. In a world where the cool people lie through their teeth, Deeble's candor is a revelation. And so is the self-titled album his band just put out, another step down the trail blazed by critical darlings Sebadoh and Pavement not too long ago.
Like these early alt.-rockers, Long Beach's SeaMonsters have that refreshing self-deprecating garage-rock vibe—but they tone down the strychnine-laced irony of the 1990s so it's easier to appreciate their lo-fi experimental style. It's a gentle, straight-ahead pop funked up by mild, quirky jazz-rock rhythms. And just when the SeaMonsters seem in danger of making the grand bland statement—another terminal disease transmitted by original alt.-rockers—they always inject something abrasive, hilarious and straight outta left field.
"Sea Hare" is a Breeders-like tune on one unassuming denizen of the deep; "Lines" is a spotlight on the band's uncool serious side, making way for vocalist/guitarist Matthew Clatterbuck's strong lyrics on the divisions that bust open friendships and pave the way for hate.
Heavy stuff indeed—almost heavy enough to stop this album from happening. Deeble and Clatterbuck made one version of the album with a different crew, including Orlando Nieto, who left the band just before an important gig in October 2001. A real alterna-slacker would have barricaded himself in his parents' house and groused over obscure alternative comics for a week. Deeble and Clatterbuck recruited friend Sam Stroosma to be a replacement bassist.
A few months later, they released the DIY album The SeaMonsters on Deeble's Pete Records label (which also released wonderful but criminally ignored gems such as the Jazz compilation of Long Beach indie groups and a 10-inch from the Havalina Rail Co.).
"We shopped it around," says Deeble, "but I've come to the conclusion that labels want to discover you; they don't want to be discovered."
Which could be one of the reasons that Deeble—along with being a student at Long Beach State and a math tutor—runs his own label, plays in a rock band, and co-produces a trippy rock party called Melancholy Conspiracy in clubs around Long Beach. Part of that nonstop artistic action comes from the creative type's curse of needing to be noticed. But part of it comes from his desire to build a new rock community for Long Beach.
"We're still trying to recover from Snoop Dogg and Sublime," says Deeble. "We're never going to be the next Chapel Hill, North Carolina, scene with all of these Sublime copies running around."
Ouch. That bracing honesty thing can really hurt.The SeaMonsters play with Languis and Ray Barbee at Club 49, 49 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 495-1750. Mon., 8:30 p.m. $5. 18+.