Surf’s Up – A Retrospective

[Editor’s Note: Apologies for the lack of entry last week. It has been a shitty time. Too shitty. More on the next AMEN Pew preaching, but for now, I felt like doing this one. So, lets go]

This record was another post-college discovery. During my great run through every review site’s big record lists. I cant remember which list had this one, but I remember enjoying it. Putting it on the “I’m gunna buy it eventually back burner.”

It wasn’t until recently that I fell back into it. Found it at a random record store for cheap, so I picked it up. Easy purchase.

Sometimes, a record shows up right when you need it. I’m on a beach vacation right now, and melancholy is how I feel about it. Especially with how shitty the world is, I am struggling to be all Jimmy Buffett about shit.

Enter Surf’s Up. If you wanted the weird-ass summer-bummer album. You got it right here.

I feel like that is not enticing as it should be. BUT to be fair, the album starts fucking strange.

The definition of alienating your audience

You know, Marvin Gaye did this in a much cooler, smoother way. Post-60s Beach Boys? Fuck no. You getting a weird ass synth lead song about how you are fucking up the ocean.

In fact, this is the perfect track opener. If you aren’t ready for this kind of strange, you aren’t ready for the album. In addition to double records, my other favorite type of albums are albums that get so CLOSE to not working, but somehow pull it all together. This is a great example.

Hell, the centrifuge pulls you back in on the next track.

The album is definitely the document of an extremely talented group on their last strings. Threads running bare, and worldview getting darker. The boy band of summer has experienced some world time. Surf’s Up reflects the maturity and lessons of both being a huge celebrity and just going through a normal human existence. It is everything that Taylor Swift has been trying to do and failing at.

I have seen this album described as a “progressive pop” album. I mean I guess. In that it has big guitar work. And synthesizers. But its not overbearing. No polyrhythm here. No odd time signatures. Just the band doing what they have always done. What they did on Pet Sounds. Be strange and still make pop music.

We are firmly in the groove, just with odd instrumentation.

And it shouldn’t work.

It should feel like a total fucking hot mess. A piecemeal construction of a record. Hell, the title track (and probably the best track) is cannibalized from the failed Smile project.

But it all works. The band must have been feeling the same kind of energy during those sessions. Cause they actually have something thematic and put together. Chaos barely strung together. Submerged and salty.

I cannot express how much this record is made for these kind of times. The sort of lost in the murk.

It’s really how I feel on this lovely beach even as I type this. It’s picturesque, but I will be returning to the world, and the heaviness remains out there.

The Beach Boys are sort of saying, “We know. It sucks. We will find a way.”

And that’s comforting somehow.

4/4 – This album is the equivalent of walking on a beach while a thunderstorm comes in, wearing a swimshirt and a hawaiian shirt that blows in the wind. You feel the coming storm, but you feel like you can survive it.

Surf is, in fact, up.

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