I always miss California this time of the year. The gray has settled in for the winter up here in Seattle and sun, sand and sea are distant memories you store in the back of your mind like Frederick the mouse to brighten those cold, grey days. The Sea Lions who come from Oxnard, California know a thing or two about the sun, sand and sea geographically speaking at least and their new album is a kaleidoscope of color to sustain you through the winter. The Sea Lions were one of the core bands along with Catwalk and Maria of the nascent Oxnard scene of a few years ago that was nicely documented by the now defunct Yay! label. The Sea Lions put out a 7-inch and a split 12-inch on Yay! and then mysteriously the label closed shop. The Sea Lions drifted a while, releasing a couple cassettes, one on Japan’s Violet and Claire and another on Ventura, California’s Obeast label until finally they were snatched up by Slumberland Records who have just released the band’s first album.
If you haven’t been following the band’s erratic and somewhat difficult to procure releases, then Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask is the perfect introduction to them. The album cover photo of the band gives the feeling that they cobbled themselves together for a high school talent show and that kind of aesthetic isn’t too far off base. The songs are simple little ditties that are like DIY versions of a Wes Anderson soundtrack. It’s heartfelt, but raw which makes it all the more endearing. Singer and main Sea Lion Adrian Pillado has a dry deadpan that evokes Calvin Johnson, though his baritone isn’t as deep and he has an earnestness about him that reminds me of Kevin Seconds or Mike Palm of Agent Orange. The Sea Lions are at their best when they slough off their ramshackle tendencies and actually go for it. The best example is the song As Times Change which mixes that punk urgency and indiepop longing in just the right amounts.
The 15 songs on Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask include surfy instrumentals and odes to love and laziness and wiz by almost too fast. The longest one doesn’t even break the three minute mark, so your attention deficit disorder never has a chance to kick in. It’s a record born from a quick punk rock and indiepop frolic and answers the question (if there was one), what if the Pastels or Beat Happening existed ten or twenty degrees longitude closer to the equator, or if Agent Orange subsisted on books and espresso through very long wet and gray winters a few degrees more to the north? All of that is just conjecture, your particular geographical location should have no affect on being able to dig this record.