Album Review of
A Seahorse of a Different Color

Written by Robert Silverstein
February 22, 2024 - 3:53pm EST
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A couple years after they released their CD compilation album Strange Shores: Old Singles & New Hits, Chicago’s instrumental Psych/Surf band, The Breakers are back in action with an all-new album called A Seahorse Of A Different Color. Released on the U.K. based Sharawaji Records label, the 18-track, 56-minute CD features The Breakers in the studio laying down a consistently high level of psych-surf action, providing loads of high-octane entertainment.

The long-time Breakers line-up of Jim Abrahams (guitars), Marc Lockett (drums) and Jayson Slater (bass) sound in tremendous form throughout and, with its significant helping of 18 new tracks, this classic Breakers album draws upon the band’s high energy psychedelic instrumental rock power with every cut a classic.

A Seahorse Of A Different Color starts off in a characteristically strange Breakers manner with a remote-sounding track called “Salute”. Sounding more like Jimi Hendrix than ever, this classic Breakers track sets the stage for the album to come. Kind of like the album’s overture, “Salute” clocks in at a brief 2:18, with an Aztec death whistle, ascending psychedelic guitar and a little bit of screaming leading us into “Monster Storm”.

For Breakers fans, “Monster Storm” is where the rubber meets the road, with the band’s patented, hard-driving beat accentuated by the pounding drums of Marc Lockett and the pulsing bass beat of Jayson Slater while Jim Abrahams’ vibrato guitar sounds like a Farfisa organ locking into the horn section, further punctuating the staccato beat.

Never let it be said that the Breakers don’t have a sense of humor, especially regarding their way-out song titles, and that is evident upon hearing the track “Escaping Through The Window”. Here a more customary surf-rock stance is taken by the band, with a highlight being Jim Abrahams’ pizzicato plectrum picking out the tasty chord changes.

Another exciting rocker, “Landmark” maps out a stock, although quite up-tempo, psych-surf instro beat. Midway, horns also kick in providing another edge to this striking Breakers number, an homage to one of the band’s local hangouts.

The album’s title track, “A Seahorse Of A Different Color” is a fitting track for this noteworthy album. There is a bit of an ‘aquatic theme’ on the track and Jim Abrahams takes off with some scintillating picking on the upper fretboard registers with the Breakers ultra-tight rhythm section keeping the song grooving along in fine form.

“El Traditional” is a lively tune, with the Mariachi horns picking things up in its last couple minutes. True, traditional though it might appear, with the Breakers no direction is ever set in stone making the song yet another highlight of A Seahorse Of A Different Color.

“BagPipeline” is certain to stir up discord and/or intrigue among diehard ‘surf-music’ purists. The Breakers are possibly the only band on Earth that would consider adding Scottish bagpipes to what is commonly referred to as the holy grail among the catalog of instrumental guitar classics. More than just a novelty cover, the Breakers effectively approach “BagPipeline” with an adventurous, humorous and cheeky spirit, all at the same time.

With its reflective, melodic cadences, “Teardrops” is another Seahorse highpoint with Jim Abrahams’ lead guitar interlocking with the Breakers rhythm section, plus a synth-sounding overdriven guitar chiming in the distance. The horn section kicks in with some tasty harmonic accompaniment turning “Teardrops” into a kind of instro-rock reverie.

Halfway through the album, the guitar-driven rocker, “Garage Door To Your Mind” deals us yet another typically offbeat Breakers title with some eerie, theremin-like keyboard sounds courtesy of Jim’s guitar paraphernalia, pulling the band in another otherworldly direction. If the 18-track A Seahorse Of A Different Color was divided into two halves, this track would open side 2 in style.

Track 10, “Seamhead” is one of the truly powerhouse tracks on A Seahorse Of A Different Color. Relentless in its sonic fury, “Seamhead” pushes the band into an absolutely dominant direction. The epitome of the Breakers potent approach to “surf-rock” comes alive on “Seamhead” and it’s not to be missed.

For die-hard Breakers disciples, track 11 “Houses Floating Away” represents The Breakers at their most progressive. On “Houses Floating Away” The Breakers prove themselves to be modern day experimentalists. One might think this track is a large, synth-keyboard track but most of it is electric guitar played through a range of guitar effects and pedals, including Jim’s favored mellotron pedal and esoteric echo treatments that evokes a near King Crimson terrain, as defined by a guitarist coming from a psych-surf background.

The same sonic reinvention adopted on “Houses Floating Away” continues on “MoonBase Alert”, yet breaking away from the track’s sizable introduction, the up-tempo hard rock edge moves us fast into modern-day instro-guitar rock.

“Sharks In The Streets” lives up to its ominous track title and, packing a punch with its exciting fretboard guitar riffing, the track comes as close as it gets to a tried and true instrumental guitar rocker, albeit from a Breakers perspective.

Another key track on A Seahorse Of A Different Color, “Skeleton Invasion” provides a perfect example of The Breakers approach to what some might call psychedelic-surf meets prog-rock, taking a Halloween ritual, scary sound effects and all, and turning it into a Gothic instrumental with Jim’s mellotron guitar effect giving the track its neo-prog edge.

“Rammer” takes the Breakers back to neutral, if not completely safe terrain. A real pumper of a rock instrumental packed with straight-ahead guitar riffing, the track offers extra penetration thanks to the well-placed Mariachi style horns.

The Breakers (L to R) Marc Lockett, Jim Abrahams, Jayson Slater“Luck Favors The Prepared” is a unique track on A Seahorse Of A Different Color in that it features album producer Craig Williams adding in keyboards on what sounds like a 1960’s flavored Farfisa organ. Some cool tempo changes give the mid-section a retro, neo-jazzy influence, driven by the rhythm section of Jayson Slater and Marc Lockett.

Track 17 is quite possibly going to be the most-played track on A Seahorse Of A Different Color as it features The Breakers instrumentalizing the 1969 classic by the fabled West Coast hippie-rock band It’s A Beautiful Day. The track here, “White Bird”, composed by the IABD founder David LaFlamme and his wife Linda, was played constantly by FM DJ’s coast to coast back at the end of the 1960s and well into the dawn of the 1970s.

With its melody played faithfully, sans vocals, The Breakers give “White Bird” a respectful instro, surf-rock treatment. Not to be missed is the video for the track, which, in a twist of fate, features the Breakers’ cover version played over clips from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film classic The Birds. The interplay between the core Breakers lineup, with friend of the band Jeff Bond sharing guitar duties with Jim Abrahams on this cover, is beyond reproach.

A Seahorse Of A Different Color goes out with a bang. 18-tracks in, “Internal Sun” is almost scalding in its intensity and gives new meaning to the surf-influenced instrumental realm.

A Seahorse Of A Different Color might not be tailor-made for every surf-instro fan. Those of the pious musical nature among us, who prefer clean-cut images and the purist innocence of the early 1960s sounds of The Ventures and The Shadows, might be in for a jolt. With A Seahorse Of A Different Color, expect the unexpected and your ears will never quite be the same again.