Surf City went through some changes after the release of their debut album, Kudos, losing a bandmember and seeing the rest of the group spread across the globe. Despite the upheaval, and the sporadic and nomadic recording process, their second album, We Knew It Was Not Going to Be Like This, is just as impressive and maybe even a little tighter and more immediate. Still wrapping their catchy little indie rock tunes in scuzzy, noisy guitars and bathing the sound in echoing, drippy reverb, the group take cues from the Velvet Underground, their fellow New Zealand noise pop groups, and Sonic Youth while carving out a sound that is distinctly theirs. To that end the band pay extra attention to each song here, focusing less on the overall feel of the album and more on the individual arrangements while getting sounds that range from fully hypnotic and overloaded to moments that are more considered and sparse. Sure, large chunks of the album do swim by somewhat hypnotically on a wave of buried vocals, messily applied guitars, and crashing cymbals, but they take some chances with their sound that really pay off. The insistent Motorik rhythms of "Song from a Short Lived TV Series" and "Oceanic Graphs of the Wilderness," the swelling choruses on "Claims of a Galactic Medium," and a couple of radio-ready songs that lean more to the pop side of the noise pop equation ("No Place to Go," "I Want You") are all examples of how they've successfully expanded their sound without compromising their core strengths. We Knew may be a less immersive listening experience than Kudos was, but it makes up for that by sounding better and having better songs. That seems like a fair trade, and if Surf City can keep it up, they may make a classic noise pop record some day. This one comes darn close.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra