REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/04/2006
Thank God this album art doesn't correlate with the quality of the music inside. Otherwise, every copy of Surfer Girl should be burned. Who honestly would wear khakis and plaid, flannel shirts to a California beach? No wonder some people though the Beach Boys were square.
Surfer Girl is one of those early Boys albums that gives a few hints at what the band was capable of, but for the most part is the mindless surf-themed pop that consumed the early years of their career. I mean, five out of the 12 tracks have the word "surfer" in the title; that's a bit much. There are exceptions, but for the most part surfer music populates this record, the kind of music Hendrix would later decry as dead at the Monterey music festival.
Those hints, however, are easily the best moments on the album. "In My Room" is a gorgeous ballad, highlighting themes of adolescence that weren't necessarily covered in the music of the day. To me, this marks the first great Beach Boy song produced by Brian Wilson, with its multiple layers of instrumentation and general disconnect from what was the norm for the group's sound. "Surfer Girl" is an unabashed ode to the ladies, but no one can resist those stunning Beach Boy harmonies.
Regardless of your opinion of the boys' instrumental skills, there is no denying that this was one of the greatest vocal groups ever. That "Beach Boys" blend is evident on every single track; there are no flat performances to be found. Beside the well known numbers, the best example of these vocals is "Your Summer Dream," a song performed in tribute to the Four Freshmen.
Surfer Girl does rock for while, or at least rock as hard as the Wilson Bros. and company could get. "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Catch A Wave" spot incredibly catchy refrains, despite being tied down by the formulaic lyrics. "Boogie Woogie" warrants a mention, simply for the campy style. Actually, I swear sections sounded like music from Ghostbusters. Coincidence? Most likely not, but you never know, maybe Brian Wilson in one of his drug-induced states saw a future with Bill Murray and Dan Akyroyd.
Really, Surfer Girl is par for the course as far as early Beach Boys records go. The band wouldn't really start to hit their stride until the Today album, but that doesn't mean there weren't some glorious moments along the way. However, Surfer Girl still is a record most likely only the serious fans would adore. To everyone else, it's average.
|Jeff, The plaid shirts The Beach Boys wore in that photo were called "Pendletons" and they were very popular with surfers, and in fact The Beach Boys originally called themselves "The Pendletons" When I was 9 or 10 years old in the early Sixties my sister Linda bought me a Pendleton for Christmas, it was my favorite shirt.|