REVIEW: Return 2 Sender by Fur Dixon and WTFUKUSHIMA

Fur Dixon's WTFUKUSHIMA album cover Return 2 Sender

Get your Geiger counters ready for a musical meltdown of nuclear proportions. Fur Dixon & WTFUKUSHIMA have just released their first album Return 2 Sender and it’s so hot, it’s radioactive. The WTFUKUSHIMA band lineup is positively exploding with talent. Legendary surf drummer Dusty Watson (currently in The Sonics and formerly of Agent Orange, and The Queers among others) drums like an absolute madman while keeping an impeccable beat. Paul Roessler (a former member of legendary LA goth band 45 Grave) tickles the keyboards in style. Dave Provost (formerly of the neo-psychedelic Dream Syndicate) churns out a beautiful bass line. Lead guitarist Bernard Yin (of the Fuzztones, BellRays, and more) is not only sensational at shredding, but his guitar playing is especially outstanding for the color and atmosphere sound it brings to each song. And, of course, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Fur Dixon (of the Hollywood Hillbillys and bassist for The Cramps‘ European tour) brings the fire with an angelic voice to sing the devil’s music. This combination of rock n’ roll veterans, all of whom share a wealth of musical experience, has worked together to create a beautiful selection of 10 songs that are guaranteed ear worms.

The opening song, “Sugar Sweet,” sets a playfully flirtatious tone. The delightfully delicious lyrics truly hook the listener and get them intrigued from the very start. You know you’re about to take a rock n’ roll ride and can’t wait to see where it’s going. Followed next by “Out of Darkness Slowly,” the lyrical imagery and harmonies are somehow simultaneously soothing and rousing all at once. Next is a soulfully spirited cover of the Buffy Sainte-Marie folk classic “Cod’ine.” The power that the band brings to this cover takes it to an entirely new level while paying respectful tribute to the original song.

Below is a music video for “Cod’ine” directed by Remy Dixon and Pau Zamorano:

The fourth track on Return 2 Sender is a personal favorite. The Twin Peaks-esque waltz of “Day Dream Walking” transports the listener to another dimension to the point where one can almost imagine bombshell Audrey Horne doing a dreamy dance to the tune. It is also a particularly fine example of Yin’s musical talents as the keyboard-like sound is, in fact, being played using an EBow, an electronic bow which creates synth-like noises on a guitar.

Track five is a fantastic cover of Brian Eno‘s “Baby’s on Fire,” with Dixon bringing a riot grrrl style edge to the vocals complimented by powerful guitar solos. The soulfully serene ballad “If I Was Free” takes things down from the dizzying heights of the previous track, with lyrics that are personal and identifiable. Next, “Get That Saddle Off My Back” brings the energy skyrocketing back up as a battle cry of strength and endurance.

The eighth track, “My Baby Go Diving” has a swinging groove with a big band style and tongue-in-cheek lyrics referencing the band’s name, WTFUKUSHIMA. The solo on “My Baby Go Diving” is played by surf guitarist Dave Wronski — who just so happens to play in an awesome surf rock band with drummer Dusty Watson called Slacktone!

“Morning Comes, No Warning” is yet another peaceful ballad, providing a brief bit of calm before launching into the final track, “Safari Road,” which truly ends the album with a bang. It’s hard, fast, and catchy as hell, its badassery reminiscent of a 1980’s Repo Man-esque soundtrack cut. The influence of surf music is especially evident in “Safari Road.” Of course, given the fact that many of the musicians of WTFUKUSHIMA are themselves surf music aficionados, it’s no wonder that the entire album has such a high-energy surf rock feel.

Overall, Return 2 Sender is an outstanding debut album from the band. Dixon’s hauntingly beautiful vocals and strong rhythm guitar is an astounding resurrection of a rock n’ roll vibe that is sadly not seen nearly enough in most musical offerings these days. This paired with the rhythm section so skillfully provided by Watson and Provost utterly lock the groove in place. Yin’s lead guitar brings a vibrant sound that envelops every song and Roessler’s melodic keyboards create a stunning soundscape. What’s more, the saxophone played throughout the album is by Hollywood Hillbillys alum Jack Ruby, with whom Dixon reunited after 29 years!

With ten entertaining tracks that provide a balanced ratio between fast-paced rock n’ roll riots and soothingly soulful ballads, this listener was surely left wanting more and it’s no doubt that you will be too.

Return 2 Sender is available for digital purchase on Bandcamp.