Surf City | Surf City EP
Most Likely To: be the fastest way to spend twenty minutes.
Kiwi quartet Surf City are a palimpsest who peel off layers of culture like paint and leave only a subtle brilliance that belies their songs’ simplicity. Originally named “Kill Surf City” after the Jesus and Mary Chain song, the band dropped the “Kill” and revealed another layer of meaning with a nod to the Jan and Dean classic, which was penned by Brian Wilson and subsequently covered by the Ramones. “Two Girls for Every Boy!” Not surprisingly, Surf City circa ’08 bears the scratches and nicks from all that precedes it. It’s a fine line between reinvention and acceptable imitation, but Davin Stoddard (guitar, vocals) Josh Kennedy (guitar), his brother Jamie Kennedy (bass, vocals), and Logan Collins (drums) pull it off.
And while there are certainly elements of the Jesus and Mary Chain and California surf rock in the music, Surf City also recalls the best of punk: simple structure meeting raw energy. Surf City also offers up several of the best song titles of the year. “Records of a Flagpole Skater” opens with a guitar riff that recalls the Wedding Present before dissolving into a wash of distorted vocals knee-deep in shouts and melodic keyboards. “Mt. Kill” employs riffy shoegaze guitars with ooh-wah backing vocals that flesh out Stoddard’s almost whiny lead. But my favorite is “Dickshakers Union (Version II)” which balances monster, tom-heavy percussion against muddy vocals and a glockenspiel.
Surf City must be the go-to opening band whenever well-known indie acts hit their shores. Rumor has it that Lou Barlow complimented the band when they opened for Dinosaur Jr. (and Mrs. Tansy is nothing if not ever willing to trust Lou’s judgment). In their hometown of Auckland, Surf City opened for Interpol earlier this year, which matches nicely with the last track, “Free the Sity.” Clocking in at over five minutes, “Free the City” sprawls in comparison to the rest of the tracks on the record, but when measured against Paul Banks and co., Surf City has about 60% less mope and 30% more pogo.
Listen to “Headin’ Inside” from Surf City: