Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dust It Off: The Fizzbombs - Surfin' Winter

Surfin' Winter
Album: Surfin' Winter [EP]
Calculus, 1988

With all the hullabaloo over the Pains of Being Pure at Heart this spring, I've been thinking a lot about the fuzzed-out indie pop bands of yesteryear. One of the fuzziest and certainly one of the best was Edinburgh's Fizzbombs.

As compared to the Pains, the Fizzbombs' guitars are bit nastier and their noise a bit noisier. There are all sorts of strange, chaotic sounds in the background of each song. In fact, the roughness of the sound, coupled with the surf element of this release, might make a comparison to Wavves more apt than one to the Pains. Either way, the Fizzbombs would fit right in in today's indie scene.

There's more than a little humor in a Edinburgh band putting out a surf album, but the surf roots of the music and beach-bum lyrics fit together perfectly. There are plenty of other obvious reference points - the jangly indie pop of C86, the full melodies of post-new wave 80's pop, the guitar roar of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Anyone who likes both pop and noise will find the Fizzbombs irresistible.

Boasting two women of three members (originally three women of four members), the Fizzbombs were part of a greater movement in the 80's UK that brought increasing numbers of female musicians into the indie rock scene. The band members all played in other bands, most notably bassist Sarah Kneale of the Shop Assistants.*

Often, EPs are really just extended singles, with one great song and some chaff to fill up the rest. But if that was the intention with this record, it's difficult to say what song they were emphasizing. All five tracks are positively gems. "Beach Party" has got some bizarre back-up vocals in a bass register and a fast, driving guitar riff. "Blue Summer" and "Test Pilot" are noisy and rich, but with equally addictive melodies. "Surfaround" is the most surf-influenced track on the album, with a Beach Boys-esque tune and a quick, skipping surf rhythm on the drums.

The EP's centerpiece, "Cherry Cherry," is perhaps the highlight (though as I've said, it's hard to pick). The 80's pop melody is reminiscent of the catchiest of Blondie or the Go Go's. As such, it's most mature and bold track on the record. That may sound counter-intuitive, but jangly surf-imitations were a dime a dozen in the UK underground around this time. Serious songwriting far less so.

If you like high levels of distortion laced with sunny melodies, look no further. If Surfin' Winter doesn't satisfy you, nothing will.

*I owe a big thanks to this blogger for explaining the line-up changes as relative to the releases. I never would have got that on my own.

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