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Album Review
We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This

We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This
by Surf City

Arch Hill Recordings

Review Date
Friday 6th September
Reviewed by
Paul Larsen

Surf City's new record is a bit of a study in contradiction. Aside from the paradoxical title and the fact that it's an album entirely not made up of surf rock, there's an even deeper contrarian streak within this 45 minute slew of psych-pop wonder; it has no right to sound as complete as it does.

After the hype of 2010's Kudos had cooled, the band were flung into the far corners of the earth (and lost to family life in Josh Kennedy's case) which meant the writing and recording of their sophomore record had to be sporadically pieced together from bedrooms and rehearsal spaces in South Korea, New York and New Zealand (only one of which is particularly known for its surf breaks). The trials of this process have inevitably seeped through to the song writing within new album, We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This which has added a new and intriguing dimension to Vocalist/Guitarist Davin Stoddard's song writing.

Fans of the first record's sound shouldn’t be too alarmed however. The familiar crunchy guitars, distant drums and drawn-out, removed vocals remain a constant but lyrically and creatively this is a much more affected record. Recurrent themes of distance, disillusion and alienation permeate the songs and work in interesting juxtaposition to the sonically relaxed sound. Exemplifying this, tracks like 'NYC' hint at the allure of a dream being greater than its reality while airy guitars and pop-infused drums wistfully float along in the shadow of this sentiment. Opening track 'It's a Common Life' also manages to tread this high-wire act of retro-pop tunes betraying unashamedly pointed lyrics ('with the dressed up monkeys running the show, disconnected from the questions we pose').

Disconcerting at first, it's a balancing act which is ultimately endearing but one that might not have worked had the record not been as musically solid as it is. Velvet Underground, Pavement and The Clean are spliced heavily into the DNA of 'We Knew..'. Nowhere more obviously than the swirling, lo-fi mix of psych-pop and buried vocals of tracks like 'I Want You' and 'Claims of Galactic Medium'.

Expansive closer 'What Gets Me By' sees out the record with a thoroughly absorbing role reversal. Here, the vocals briefly introduce the song before falling into a supporting role as twin call-and-reply guitars lead us the long way home through a reverb-fuelled joyride. This late spark of variation may highlight an overall lack diversity for some, but 'We Knew..' remains an enjoyably solid, if not entirely cohesive record.


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