Water, Water Everywhere

3. Various Artists, Surfin' Hits (Rhino): With definitive cuts by Dale and the Beach Boys, as well as hits by the Chantays ("Pipeline"), the Surfaris ("Wipe Out"), and the Trashmen ("Surfin' Bird"), Surfin' Hits is the greatest overview currently on the market. It also features two terrific nuggets from 1963: Jack Nitzsche's majestic "The Lonely Surfer" and the Rumblers' "Boss," which punkabilly group the Cramps appropriated for their 1980 cult hit "Garbage Man."

4. Various Artists, Beach Classics (Dunhill Compact Classics): This duplicates a few tracks from the above set, but there's enough exclusive stuff here -- the Frogmen's dripping-wet "Underwater" and the Hustlers' "Inertia," to name just two -- to make it essential too.

5. The Ventures, Walk, Don't Run: The Best of the Ventures (EMI): Sure, they were surf's most popular group. And yet the bulk of the Ventures work seems staid in comparison to Dale's high-volume assaults. Still, "Walk, Don't Run" sports one of surf's keynote melodies, and there's some fine guitar work throughout this definitive overview of the band's Sixties hits.

6. The Raybeats, It's Only a Movie! (Shanachie): A lost gem from 1983. The Raybeats were a New York City-based group formed by no-wave guitarist Jody Harris, whose first album A 1981's Guitar Beat A encompassed arty surf originals and a Jan & Dean cover. Movie, however, is one of surf's most ambitious and inventive albums. On it, the Raybeats dabble in Ennio Morricone-style atmospheria ("Doin' the Dishes"), stomp all over a Booker T. and the MGs cover ("Jelly Bread"), and salute their elders with adventurous reworkings of classics by Link Wray and Henry Mancini, among others.

7. Man or Astro-Man? Is It . . . Man or Astro-Man? (Estrus): They claim they're from outer space, but Man or Astro-Man? is really just four college guys from Alabama who've released more records in four years than Dick Dale has in the last three decades. Is It . . . , the band's 1993 debut album, is an amazing assemblage of ultratwang riffs, neck-breaking percussion, and B-movie samples and voice-overs worthy of De La Soul or Firesign Theatre. Unarguably the greatest surf album of the Nineties.

8. The Phantom Surfers, Play the Music from the Big-Screen Spectaculars (Estrus): Don't let the matching suits and masks fool you: The Phantom Surfers may look kitschy, but their sound is lifted directly from the old-school verities of vintage surf rock. This 1992 set is the prolific band's masterwork, a collection of covers from film soundtracks including The Unknown Terror, Malamondo, and Mondo Topless, all delivered with the reverb knob set to "10."

9. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Savvy Show Stoppers (Cargo): Thanks to their slinky theme song for the comedy show Kids in the Hall, this Canadian trio was the first nuevo surf group to find an audience beyond the obscurantist followers of the genre. Savvy Show Stoppers rounds up the band's early singles, all released in 1990 on their Jetpac label. There are some nice covers here (especially "Misty" and "Summer Wind"), but originals such as "Good Cop Bad Cop" and "Our Weapons Are Useless" are the real standouts.

10. The Trashwomen, Spend the Night with the Trashwomen (Estrus): They're named in obvious homage to the masterminds behind "Surfin' Bird," yet this Bay Area trio might be the better group. Consider: Where the Trashmen disappeared after one great single, the 'Women have knocked off three ace albums (Spend the Night being the first, from 1993) and some equally fine singles. Neither slaves to the cover tune (guitarist Elka Zolot writes a hell of a riff) nor above adding vocals to an instrumental classic (e.g., "Peter Gunn"), the Trashwomen truly live up to their self-bestowed title "the Queens of Tease Rock."

Dick Dale performs Friday, February 23, at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE 2nd; 757-1807. Showtime is 10:00 p.m. Admission is $12.

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