Release Date: Jan 11, 2011
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Noise Pop, New Zealand Rock
Surf City’s first full-length album, 2010’s Kudos, takes the noise pop sound of their self-titled debut EP from 2008 and refines it into something quite similar, but better. That EP had no shortage of catchy songs and inspiring moments that conjured up ghosts of both Flying Nun and noisier NZ bands like Bailter Space and the 3-D's; this album has more. Song after song rolls past in waves of reverb, distortion, and trance-inducing rhythms, each with sharp hooks built on repletion, Josh Kennedy and Davin Stoddard's distant vocal chants, subtly yelped choruses, and the thickly intertwined guitars.
Contrary to what their name may suggest, Surf City don't actually originate from the Huntington Beach area of California. Instead their humble beginnings can be traced back to a teenage slumber party (they don't do Skins over there, fortunately...) in the Mount Roskill area of Auckland, New Zealand. While their homeland can't really claim to be at the forefront of groundbreaking underground guitar music, it's fair to say that since the late Seventies with The Clean and more recently The Chills - and indeed most of the Flying Nun Records roster - they've contributed a host of worthwhile, albeit cult artists to the global musical firmament.
On their Facebook page, Surf City has listed “shoewave” as their genre. While they are clearly poking fun at the absurdity of genre names like “shoegaze” and “chillwave”, it actually sums up the band’s aesthetic pretty succinctly. Additionally, the quartet hails from Auckland, New Zealand—an honest-to-god surf city—but the band got it’s name (originally Kill Surf City) from an old Jesus and Mary Chain b-side.
Surf City's self-titled debut EP arrived in 2008, but you could be forgiven for thinking that the band had actually time-warped in from the early 1990s. Over six songs the Auckland, New Zealand, quartet displayed an unabashed yen for vintage noise-pop-- cherry-picking guitar moves and clipped vocal cadences from the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Clean, and Pavement. They were good at it, though.
Though it was widely anticipated that Bradford Cox would become one of the noughties’ more influential artists, few considered that most of his protégés would do away with [a]Deerhunter[/a]’s noble experimentalism in lieu of standering whimsically behind drippy reverb. [a]Surf City[/a] spend the first third of ‘[b]Kudos[/b]’ hanging out with that same apathetic throng, but then surprise with a handful of genuinely exciting moments. ‘[b]Icy Lakes[/b]’ is a warmly immersive eight minutes built on stoical motorik while ‘[b]In Times Of Approach[/b]’ is a focused stab at rabble rousing dream-pop anthemia, proving that the New Zealand four-piece give a shit more than it first appeared.
On 1963’s “Surf City”, Jan and Dean may have thought they were the pinnacle of chilled out cool. But in 1988, “Two girls for every boy” was exactly what The Jesus and Mary Chain were railing against with their anti-“women by the waves” barrage “Kill Surf City”. At present, Auckland, New Zealand’s Surf City is interested in a similar sort of mutilated revival of American Surf Rock.