Joe Satriani - Surfing with the Alien
Relativity Records Inc.
Shred Guitar Rock
10 songs (37:36)
Release year: 1988
Reviewed by Crash
What does it take to be a guitar hero? To many, it might just be an image. Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eddie Van Halen all share two things in common. The first is that they could create thunder with the power of six strings and a set of blistered fingers. The second is that they looked damn good doing it. While few could deny that any of these guitarist had earned their place, some were not content. They had to be bigger, better, faster, and more grandiose. This led to a wave of shredders unlike the last. Many people scoffed at them, labeling them as showoffs more content with practicing their scales than writing a song worth listening to. No one can deny the talent it takes to play arpeggios as a super human speed or to ambidextrously play two guitars at once. But unfortunately, their popularity lasts only as long as their gimmicks stay interesting. As much as a guitarist might be fun to watch it doesn’t mean much of anything if they aren’t fun to listen to.

There are fans and detractors for each of these guitarists. Some argue why a. shredder writes music while shredder b. simply showboats and quite frankly, it isn’t that interested to talk about. The music worth listening to tends to get listened to and despite what people say and think, two records tend to be unanimously agreed upon as staples of the genre. One is Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. The other is by the former’s one time mentor Joe Satriani. That record is Surfing with the Alien.

Surfing With the Alien stands apart from other guitar albums in that it doesn’t sound too far removed from a regular eighties rock album. In fact, outside of the fact that it is completely instrumental it doesn’t sound much different from what was good about the great rock bands from the time. What does it is the approach taken. Rather than sounding like an excuse to show off his technical skills, Satriani made sure first and foremost that these all sounded like songs. The fact that there are no vocals never comes across as unusual and with Satriani’s eccentrically charismatic playing, his playing fits right in and easily fills the void a lesser shredder would have trouble with. Satriani comes off as a frontman in his own right, allowing his guitar to speak louder than words.

Two songs in particular are classics in the field of guitar everything. The first of those would be the title track, Surfing with the Alien. A driving and rockin’ tune, this should be familiar with anyone that appreciates a great guitar solo. Satch’s tone is immaculate, with stories of how he one night magically came up with his crystal clear sound only to never be able to replicate it again. Rather than trying to mess around in the studio, he knew a good thing when he heard it and left the original take the way that it was. It is pretty much impossible for Satch to finish a set without this song near the end and it isn’t hard to see why: it immediately satisfies.

The second song that every fame seeking guitar dweeb knows by heart is the gorgeous Always With Me, Always With You. This guitar ballad does everything one could hope for by perfectly capturing emotion without losing bite or clarity. Another staple of his live set, this is one of those songs that never ceases to amaze me and unlike many of my most favorite songs, never gets old. While it is not my favorite song, there is never a time that I wouldn’t like to hear this song.

There are other greats. Satch Boogie is a bonafide tribute to ZZ Top with its bluesy strut and honky tonk growl. Lords of Karma is another charmer, showcasing Satch’s seemingly bottomless bag of tricks. Same as always, these tricks never come off as wanking and always serve the mood.

More “mature” guitar players may scoff at this kind of playing. After all, Cobain and the grunge wave apparently “killed” cock rock in the main stream. Whether it really did or didn’t is up to debate. What really matters is that the good music tends to be remembered for being good. This is a record worth remembering.

Killing Songs :
Surfing with the Alien and Always With Me, Always With You should be known by anyone that has ever picked up a guitar.
Crash quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Joe Satriani that we have reviewed:
Joe Satriani - Is There Love In Space? reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 70 / 100
Joe Satriani - Engines Of Creation reviewed by Chris and quoted no quote
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