Quake Up! - Surfquake (Surfquake)
It’s a (mainly instrumental) surf album but “Quake Up!” covers more genres than you can shake a wax stick at. Movie and TV themes, sci-fi and garage pop litter the wake of this Essex quartet like pebbles on a Pommy beach. It's probably a reason for surf music purists to hate ‘em.
Surf music isn’t a language that openly speaks to everyone these days but it’s murmuring away in the background. From an Australian perspective, scratch the veneer of any of our greatest rock and roll bands from the last 50 years and you’ll surf music lurking underneath. The blues and beat pop that British migrants brought with them rode right over the top of surf in the early ’60s.
Classic instro surf is the sound of crashing waves replicated by reverb-drenched guitars, propelled by careering bass runs and speckled by finger-picked notes. People like Davie Allan took it down an extreme fuzz path, while the Beach Boys smothered the music in vocal harmonies. Surfquake push it out of shape in their own way.
“Quake Up!” Is bubblegum surf played by people who’ve been around the musical block a few times in a variety of bands. Guitarist Nelson is a 20-year-olus bassist with New Model Army and has Modern English on his cv. He’s joined by Carabunga on keys, Noserider on bass and The Dune on drums, local players of repute.
Five of the 17 tunes are originals and are good enough as songs in their own right. You’ll know most of the covers; there’s a “Surfin’ Bird” that’s much more genteel than takes by the Cramps and the Ramones (it’s still groovy in its own measured way) and this “Hawaii Five-O” is sans corrupting Radio Birdman influences, being played true to the original.
“Wipe Out Batman!” is a clever mash up of two songs that will have you wondering why somebody didn’t think of doing it before. “Walk Don’t Run” is lifted from the level of a straight cover by some cool theremin and keyboards-guitar interplay.
Surfquake are the B-52s of the surf genre - unafraid of stylistic boundary fences and just a little kitsch. The players are good but there’s a sense that nobody’s pushing too hard. "Quake Up!" will keep you interested for its 50 minuites, but ultimately, it's like kneeboarding: Fun but safe.