Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Record label: Fire
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Surf City went through some changes after the release of their debut album, Kudos, losing a bandmember and seeing the rest of the group spread across the globe. Despite the upheaval, and the sporadic and nomadic recording process, their second album, We Knew It Was Not Going to Be Like This, is just as impressive and maybe even a little tighter and more immediate. Still wrapping their catchy little indie rock tunes in scuzzy, noisy guitars and bathing the sound in echoing, drippy reverb, the group take cues from the Velvet Underground, their fellow New Zealand noise pop groups, and Sonic Youth while carving out a sound that is distinctly theirs.
Space rock's been having a bit of an unexpected renaissance recently, what with Hookworms' critically acclaimed Pearl Mystic and now Surf City's sophomore record We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This. Anyone drawn in solely by the band's name and hoping for sticky-sweet Beach Boys-style harmonies and songs about California girls is going to be disappointed: if Surf City falls anywhere on the surf rock spectrum at all, it's definitely more toward the frenzied staccato reverb of Dick Dale than anything else. .
‘Surf City’, a speedy internet search reveals, is a seaside town in North Carolina and also the nickname for the Californian surf mecca Huntingdon Beach. It’s also, somewhat misleadingly, the name of New Zealand’s finest – or second-finest, depending on your views on Splashh – purveyors of spaced-out, blurry rock, who in addition to not being from North Carolina or California, are not in fact very surfy at all. (No one has, as of yet, decided what sport – water based or otherwise – Surf City actually resemble.
Even though they grew up 6,000-plus miles away from Brian Wilson’s gold coast, Auckland indie-rockers Surf City exuded enough beach-bound exuberance on their 2008 self-titled EP to justify their sand-swept moniker. But in the wake of 2010’s decidedly more plugged-in and spaced-out Kudos, their name has taken on decidedly different connotations. With a growing affinity for discordant frequencies and motorik rhythms chasing that imperfect sound forever, these guys make music for people whose idea of surfing involves a channel clicker; the only tans anyone’s getting here are from cathode rays.
Despite their name, Surf City have always had more in common with The Jesus and Mary Chain than The Beach Boys, championing atmospheric shoegaze over surf rock. That’s not to say the sunshine wasn’t there. It was just obscured by clouds of ethereal vocals and big, fuzzy guitars. On We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This (the band’s second full-length), they bring the beach to the forefront, at least for the beginning of many songs.
New Zealand has exported its fair share of impressive rock acts throughout the years. Having defined an NZ sound, bands like The Clean and The Chills have been major influences on practically all rising talent from the region. Now, after three band name changes, two EPs, and one full-length, Surf City is moving up the ranks of the New Zealand garage rock scene—maybe poised to be influencer.We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This is full of surging basslines and washed-out, oceanic riffs that give the album a nostalgic lo-fi vibe.