“Surfer Boys”/”Wonder Band”
* * * 1/2 / * * *
The extremely anticipated new singles by the SHE’s, “Surfer Boys” and “Wonder Band,” both focus on the same theme--boys. I mean, seeing as their first album was all about those ever-present queen bees, it’s good they’re getting more positive. This band is really good at talking about boys. And I love boys--I never keep that a secret. On their new songs, the boys surf and play music, respectively. And the SHE’s just want to do the same thing and have fun with them.
On their new singles, the group abandons the muddy lo-fi sound of their self-titled debut EP in favor of a much cleaner sound. “Surfer Boys” seems to be a tribute to the lo-fi-girl-group-surf-pop bands so beloved by the indieverse the SHE’s have been (reluctantly or not) assimilated into over the past few months. Singer Hannah Valente murmurs her longing to surf with the boys in a tone so ridiculously matter-of-fact I’ve heard other music critics try to sing it to themselves and become frustrated at how they just don’t sound matter-of-fact enough.
“Wonder Band” is thematically similar, the crush-target being those ever-so-sexy musicians your buddies always seem to be playing a show with. While the lyrics are great in their teenage naivete, the background music sounds underwhelming, as if the song has the potential to be a full, heavy rocker but instead loses its full power potential in a haze of mandolins and bubbly Adolescent Friction guitars. It’s not a bad song though, and both are fine pop songs that indicate a new, more expansive, and more accessible direction for the group.
“I Am Not The King Of Anything”
* * * *
Aren’t you sick of jerks like Elvis and Michael Jackson and Nathan Williams who always have to be the “king” of something? Nik Bartunek wants you to feel confident in knowing he is no ruler--on this raging new single, the Picture Atlantic frontman alternately lows and squeals his everyman blues. The haunted keyboards and dark guitars suggest the group may be studying the black-clad bummerscapes of Interpol and the National--and although listeners may not be used to this side of the band, it suits them surprisingly well. Remember, there’s fog in the South Bay sometimes.
CUT THE RIFF RAFF
Cut the Riff Raff is a barely anonymous duo of musicians from Martinez’s burgeoning post-hardcore scene. (I will not mention their true identities, but they go by Ricky Q. and Blaze). Their first single, “Goin’ Steady,” has a striking resemblance to the music of Blaze’s old band in the pairing of pop-punk vocals and suave ‘80s synthfunk groovitude. It’s a simple, fun, goofy song, and there’s really not a whole lot to say about it--it’s not a high-quality pop masterwork, and it’s a cool kind of guilty-pleasure song. But if these guys really cared about being anonymous so much, they wouldn’t sound so much like, um... Blaze’s old band (not to mention having their true identities on their Facebook page for about two weeks). Points also docked for making this review so damn hard to write.