Sunday 19 January 2014

Surf Club - Until Then

Single review by

More than most other indie-rock subsets, shoegaze - and we use that label in the loose terms that allow for a sweep up of songs whose key elements flirt around the fringes of the genre - regularly seems to stir up strongly conflicting opinions amongst people whose tastes would normally converge at similar points of reference. For some (including a number of our Sound Of Confusion contributors) there's a long-term love affair at play here; the layers of reverb encircling each guitar melody, washing past the whispered tones of the frontman or woman and tugging at our irrepressible urge to fantasize about idyllic afternoons spent flat out on the grass watching the clouds drift by. On the flip side of the coin are those (possibly the more grounded members of the music cognoscenti!) who merely view the movement as a source of frustration and contempt, balking at an over reliance on the intricacies of effects pedals and citing this as a sneaky means to mask limited vocal talent, a lack of imagination, or simple bone idleness towards the study of songcraft. With 'Until Then', the brand new single from Surf Club, it's tempting to feel that both ends of the spectrum will believe their stance is vindicated.

If that last comment seems to suggest there's a negative slant on the way, it's only because up until now the Californian four-piece have set an exceptionally high standard with their output. 2012 release 'Reverie' saw the band study the fuzzy jangle-pop diagram The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart laid out on 'Belong', and fashion from it their own self-assured gem. Last spring's 'Swoon' kept up the expectation level, narrowly missing out on this correspondent's tracks of the year list at the eleventh hour; so let's be clear there is considerable talent here. To that end, 'Until Then' does tick a lot of the boxes that elevated its predecessors above the pack, the guitars chime concordantly with the ebb and flow of the synthesizers, while the compactly honed drum rhythm and "aaahs" at the apex of the chorus are further plus points. Where criticism comes to the fore however, is through the far too faint mixing of Frankie Soto's already gauze-like vocals. This may or may not be deliberate on their part, it's a fine line bands of this ilk often tread and one that Surf Club have balanced perfectly acceptably in the past. On this occasion however the often indecipherable nature of both the singer's words and melody, while by no means ruining the track, are a source of disappointment and a little exasperation.

Ultimately though, is this release still worth a few minutes of your time? Absolutely yes, and even more so is Surf Club's prior work that displays so much promise. Not a perfect return for now, but ratchet up the mics a notch next time out and you'll be right back up there gents. Until then....

Surf Club's website

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