Ahh, in a welcome respite from my weekly poker junk-kicking, it's time to put up another CD review. Actually, I wrote the following a couple of weeks or so ago, but it finally made it up on to the Hybrid Magazine site today, so I can now share it with you. With no further ado, I present Surf City's self-titled EP.
Upon receiving a review copy of Surf City, the new EP from the young New Zealand band of the same name, my initial impression was something along the lines of "cool, surf music from some of the biggest reef country the far side of the moon from Huntington Beach." The promo materials even made the obligatory Dick Dale reference. As an old time gremmie with a deep and abiding love of heavily reverbed instrumental surf guitar, I expected to be in for a treat. Notwithstanding the first few seconds of the record's opening track, "Headin' Inside", neither the label's misguided publicist nor I could be more wrong. But so what? The record's pretty damn good - not for what it isn't, but for what it is.
Surf City is a collection of four lads from the land of kiwis and the haka, who have a keen grasp of energetic melody, pacing, and the entire Jesus & Mary Chain back catalog. Their EP checks in at a crisp 19 minutes across seven tracks, each of which is a tasty slab of power pop and nods towards old school Australasian punk pop of the 70s and early 80s (think Hoodoo Gurus, The Scientists, Lime Spiders, Split Enz, etc.), the rapid chiming guitars of The Wedding Present, and yes, even the occasional wink of the eye to a double-picked surf run. And all of this is accomplished in a wonderfully appropriate low-fi recording that revels in the natural boisterous tendencies of the band without dragging the final produced down the descent into mud.
Simply put, there is not a clunker to be found in the bunch. From the roller rink organ, rapid fire hi-hat, and jagged guitar of "Records Of A Flagpole Sitter", to the desperate, near Wolf Parade-like vocal stylings found in "Dickshakers Union", to the retro dance rock of "Free The City", this EP is consistent throughout. While it is never truly mindblowing, it is always entertaining, and holds up well to repeated listening. Surf City appears to have a firm grasp of the true essence and source of power pop, and aural rewards await those who can tolerate the somewhat rawer nature of their recordings.
These days, it seems to be hip to be a kiwi with a guitar, especially if you can wangle an HBO show out of being a silly hack from the land next to the land down under. But never mind the Conchords, Surf City is the real deal.