Surf City’s first full-length album, 2010’s Kudos, takes the noise pop sound of their self-titled debut EP from 2008 and refines it into something quite similar, but better. That EP had no shortage of catchy songs and inspiring moments that conjured up ghosts of both Flying Nun and noisier NZ bands like Bailter Space and the 3-D's; this album has more. Song after song rolls past in waves of reverb, distortion, and trance-inducing rhythms, each with sharp hooks built on repletion, Josh Kennedy and Davin Stoddard's distant vocal chants, subtly yelped choruses, and the thickly intertwined guitars. They tend to blend together into a midtempo haze (in a good way) that feels much longer than the album’s 45-minute running time. Again, that’s a good thing since it’s a pleasant, caressing haze of sound that’s only rarely punctured by a boost in tempo (though "ICA" bursts out of the speakers like a blast of freezing cold water near the album’s end). The record and the band hit the sweet spot between the narcotic drive of the Velvet Underground, the murk of a wooly Flying Nun band, and the guitar overdrive of Sonic Youth. It’s a not uncommon spot for a band to find themselves in, but Surf City manage to escape any threat of sounding common by imbuing their sound with an insistent energy and drive. Instead of drifting away into the ether or plodding like heavy-handed copyists, they play the songs like they have something to lose, like they are the first band to ever harness these forces of noise and melody. It’s a good strategy, and songs like the gently undulating "Yakuza Park" or "Teachers," which surfs like a pro on waves of feedback and falsetto backing vocals, will end up stuck on a loop in your head after a couple listens. The whole record works like that, sounding good on first listen and then working into your system like a distorted and tuneful bacterial infection. It may be nothing all that new, but whether it’s a nostalgia trip or a first-time discovery of just how well noise and melody can blend together, Kudos is vital listening for indie rock fans in 2011.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra