The semi-hollow Charvel Surfcaster died too young. Launched in the early 1990s, this quirky, cock-eyed curiosity was a breath of fresh air, but ultimately just too damn weird.
Five years after it bit the dust, Charvel is having another stab with the Skatecaster model that pinches the Surfcaster's original body shape, if not the semi-hollow construction.
Between the name, the matte-black finish, the snub-nosed contours and the punky one-volume format, early signs suggest that the Skatecaster SK-3 is aimed squarely at the mall-rat in the GoodCharlotte hoodie. Confusing, then, that this guitar also throws in a compound-radius fretboard, double‑octave neck and jumbo fretwire - all features that imply the virtuoso market.
Best of both worlds, or an identity crisis? Guess we'd better sling this bad boy around and find out.
The Skatecaster is one of those body shapes. It's light and comfortable, hangs well on a strap and, as you'd expect, the board plays smoother and faster the higher you climb.
At the same time, though, it's not quite a proper doublecut, with the upper side of the neck hitting the body at fret number 17, restricting our low string access to the very top frets. There's no faulting the no-nonsense China build, but it's hard to shake the sense that this slab-with-strings is almost a little too basic.
Certainly, that's an impression hammered home once you plug in. When clean, there's a slightly woolly quality to these Desolation humbuckers and frequently you will find yourself reaching for your amp's treble control, especially if you're a go-faster player who values pin-sharp note clarity over fat rhythm.
As you'd expect from a Charvel axe, things improve when you flick to the filth, but there's not enough sonic distinction between the pickups and the overall sense is of too much boom and not enough characterful bite.
It's a frustrating situation since the Skatecaster is a good overall package, and with just a bit more sense of control - surely not an unreasonable request for £298? - this guitar could have really impressed us.