AMN Reviews: Marco Capelli´s Italian Surf Academy – The American Dream (Mode Avant)

Reliving that extended era of benign American cultural imperialism, when war-weary Europeans embraced the smiling plastic fantastic of the movie and music industries – the West coast, the Ventures, the Pacific Ocean curls, Dick Dale, the sunny days, the sunset – all bathed in reverb.

Although Italian cinema became world renowned from the moment the war ended with neorealist movies like “Rome: Open City” and “The Bicycle Thief”, you gotta have pop, too, and as anywhere, escapism is always in demand. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and more than any others, the Italians seemed enchanted and determined to recreate that American dream on its own soil – even the brutal and confrontational scenarios of the Wild West. In one of those great boomerang effects of cultural transmission, the style and scoring of the first “spaghetti Westerns” by Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone exported well to the States and Morricone´s characteristic style in particular became “the” sound of the Hollywood Western film.

Capelli´s album is an homage to those old movies, those summertime days of freedom, beach bunnies and overabundance – in Italy featuring more stylish sunglasses, more revealing bikinis and more vespas – by reinterpreting a selection of tunes drawn from the scores of domestic exploitation flicks (including one riotously dialogue-sampled heist flick) spanning the mid-sixties and early seventies. There is also a tip of the hat to television with a single American cover, ”Secret Agent Man”. Vocalist Gaia Mattiuzzi appears on two tracks, faithfully recapturing sky-eyed sixties pop on one track, letting her eroticized, improvisational freak flag fly on the other.

Citing colleague Marc Ribot, Capelli is adament in insisting that without understanding the surf sound, you can´t understand the electric guitar. He certainly puts it through its paces, and anyone expecting anything more than flashes of fealty to the originals is in for a big disappointment. With a rhythm section consisting of the obliging Luca Lo Bianco and Francesco Cusa, he certainly moondogs that catgut. He´s loopy when he´s been out too long in the sun, dead serious when he means business, seductive when there´s a lady around and has that Duane Eddy twang down pat. Bitchin, ragazzi!

Stephen Fruitman