Surf City kicks off in very promising fashion with "Headin’ Inside" which has a near-perfect ratio of propulsion, yelling, frantic rhythm, gliding melody and scratchy discord. The running time of 2:27 would also have been super jukebox friendly back in the days when, well, you know. "Records of a Flagpole Skater" has plenty of guitar fuzz, thumping energy, and a vocal afterglow suggestive of sounds launched in Paisley by the Reid brothers.
By contrast "Dickshaker’s Union" seems rather desperate and lifeless (no pun intended) and "Canned Food" sounds like half a song, as ordinary and uninspiring as the title suggests. The EP does well to recover from this lumpen phase and sure enough a livelier spirit returns. Surf City's charm lies in going for the throat while not pretending to be a radical departure. For example, during "Headin’ Inside" the unpretentious cries of "1-2-3-4" have a joyous abandon with no discernable irony or sense of embarrassment. Similarly, on “Mt Kill” the line “Shake, rattle, and roll your hands” sounds just fine whether or not it’s sung with tongue in cheek. One of the better pieces here “Mt Kill” begins with a guitar figure that might have been cribbed from The Church before mutating into a dynamic guitar tone and sense of rushing vocals often associated with prime Sonic Youth. There’s no let down on final song “Free The City,” either, with obvious echoes of The Cure.
Surf City orginated in New Zealand but I think I'll resist the urge to lazily mention any NZ bands. Better to contend that, on the one hand the four best tracks on the EP are just about perfect. On the other hand, the narrow focus runs the risk of what I like to call Giovanni di Varrazzano Syndrome. Adam Nicolson, in his book On Foot, describes di Varrazzona as an Italian navigator who in the 1520s found the sliver of barrier island which includes Hatteras, North Carolina. Just as may still be the case, mainland USA was beneath the horizon, not visible from Hatteras. According to Nicolson, di Varrazzano assumed he had found all there was to America.