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. It’s evident that early garage bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement had a heavy impact on Surf City’s sound; this impact leans most heavily on Davin Stoddard’s vocals, who channels the essence of Moore and Malkmus.
Surf City’s songwriting is much stronger here than on 2010′s Kudos, and shows more complex instrumentation and deeper lyrical content. Stoddard covers love, loss, loneliness, and the odd desire to find internet affection. Although We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This has a laid-back feel to it, the album also shows a unique balance of power and peace; listening to it is like spending a day in the ocean. Tracks like “It’s A Common Life” and “Claims Of A Galactic Medium” come down like crashing barrels of reverb and distortion, only to be followed by tranquil breaks like the relaxed “I Want You” and “Oceanic Graphs Of The Wilderness.” Stoddard finds himself in deep water on tracks like “NYC,” as he sings about alienation and isolation, while twangy strings and a steady drum beat blanket the singer’s solitude-soaked lyrics. As a whole, We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This is less a melancholy record, but it’s more pensive than blankly sad.
Surf City plays with a more confident and reassured sound as the group comes into its own on We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This. The band has let go of some its previous reservations and inhibitions noticeable on their first record. With this second effort, Surf City rides waves of fuzz-filled, garage rock and offer up a sunny, warm record to help us squeeze out every last drop of summer.