Quake Up – Surfquake (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I can’t be the only person who comes to this album clutching just one piece of prior knowledge, that the band’s founder and “go-go-guitarist” is none other than Nelson, New Model Army’s longest serving bassist, a band that have been an important and poignant musical force in my life for longer than I care to mention. But this just goes to prove an important point. Whilst bands generally have a defined and evolving sound, musicians are free to make genre-hopping leaps between musical styles as the mood takes them. Not only are they free to…they should. How else to things move forward? How else to they embrace their potential? How else do they get to thoroughly embrace and enjoy what being a musician is all about? Maybe I  should stop asking so many Stupid Questions!

And you have to remember outside his time in The Army he has been A Cleaner From Venus, a member of The Brotherhood of Lizards, served with Modern English and can be found working with head Cleaner Martin Newell to this day. That’s a long winded way of saying that we need to stop clinging to pre-conceptions and expectations, ride the wave of such initial sonic shocks and just embrace the music.

And as the name implies, Quake Up is a million miles away from NMA’s strident missiles, this is surf rock Essex style and for the last decade Surfquake have been plying their groovesome trade all the way from Canvey to King’s Lynn and back again. A fist full of original songs is joined by classic grooves, iconic tunes and live favourites and the result is a gloriously fun album.

Opening salvo Surfer Jet City is the perfect balance of beach anthem, heavy reverb, gang vocals and pun and from there they dance between fresh compositions and familiar favourites though if you are less well versed in the genre, as I have to admit that I am, it is impossible to tell the classic from the contemporary. Do The Milkshake is awash with Carabunga’s nostalgic keyboards, Spaghetti Waltz is Morricone in musical Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt  and Jane of The Jungle fuzzes out and funks around. Between these they revisit everything from The James Bond Theme to The Trashmen’s much covered Surfin’ Bird, a song that in 1963 was grounds for incarceration in a mental facility but here a reminder of the crazed genius of the people behind it.

Whether you are already familiar or totally oblivious of the band you will find lots to love here; its fun, infectious, nostalgic, tongue-in-cheek and eminently cool. It’s probably only those few people who have found their way here via the main man’s low-slung, windswept, folk-rock past who might struggle and the my advice to them is to just get over yourself…meant in the nicest possible of ways.

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