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September 27, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Artist: Surf City
Album: Kudos
Label: Arch Hill Recordings

They’re on Arch Hill, their name is a reference to a Jesus and Mary Chain reworking of a Brian Wilson standard, and the first track on their debut album sounds like all of the above. The reverb on each snare hit could be direct from Psychochandy, and the submerged vocals could easily be mistaken for those of a young David Kilgour.

Okay, so the surf rock guitar lines from their self-titled debut have been chucked skipways, but you still shouldn’t expect much from Kudos that isn’t pictured on the Surf City tin.
None of this need be a bad thing though. Given that Surf City make little attempt to shy from their influences, it would be unfair to judge them on anything other than execution, and in this respect they score pretty well. Heck, they even manage to ride out ‘Icy Lakes’ through upwards of four riffs, various breaks and a killer chorus (which they play three times). It’s almost eight minutes long, but the band are careful never to digress too far from its core melodic line; even when they do begin to steer away one can rest assured that a return to a catchy hook is never far around the corner.

On closer, ‘Zombies’, although they trade the driving riffs for chanted vocals, chiming sampler loops and a tambourine driven beat that recalls the Beta Band’s ‘Dry the Rain’, the barbecue haze aesthetic remains intact throughout. I’m even reminded of the Flaming Lips in places, with the backwards cymbals and distended bass that open ‘Autumn’ suggesting a bit of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, at least until the band’s warm-tone guitars squawk their way back into the mix and reassert the status quo.

It’s a simple formula, and one which they stick to for most of the rest of the album. To their credit, Surf City are comfortable enough in their sound not to fuck with it, and as a result, when they do make departures they tend to come off with an easy and casual panache. Sure, they’re treading in relatively familiar sonic seawater, but, given the appeal of its frequent and likeable hooks Kudos is a hard album to dislike. Furthermore, Surf City’s willingness to flirt with alternative approaches to their principal sound (fleeting though they may be) suggests that they have plenty of avenues for growth in the future.


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