Last Wave To Surfsville by The Surfin’ Lungs – Album Review
By Dominic Picksley
Europe’s premier surf pop band, The Surfin’ Lungs, blast back into action with their first album in seven long years… and Last Wave To Surfsville delivers another rich slab of punk-infused summertime fun.
Driving guitars, rich harmonies, a pulsating backbeat and feel good tunes that conjure up images of summers spent with your surfboard on beaches somewhere hot, punctured by the odd instrumental, have been the Lungs’ trademark for the last 40-odd years, with Chris Pearce’s distinctive lead vocals still sounding as fresh now as they did on Mickey’s Car, the band’s first release way back in 1983.
Formed in 1981, Pearce has led The Surfin’ Lungs for the past 42 years, helping the group forge a reputation as the continent’s finest exponents of surf punk-pop. And although they remain little known in this country, despite a plethora of terrific albums – Cowabunga, The Biggest Wave, The Beach Will Never Die, Hang Loose with The Surfin’ Lungs, Goin’ To Rockingham, Surf, Drags & Rock’n’Roll, Full Petal Jacket and latterly Surf Factor 8, they have developed a decent following in places like Spain, Italy and, strangely, landlocked Switzerland.
Now gradually entering the twilight of their musical journey, the Lungs show no signs of slowing down or going stale, producing a 14-track longplayer to more than match anything they have released before, even if original member, bassist Steve Dean, was not part of proceedings as he temporarily takes a break from the band.
“Plug the gap”
This is the first Lungs record not to feature Dean’s distinctive bass playing, falsetto harmony and canny songwriting skills – along with Pearce, he has always been the band’s main source of material.
But guitarist and vocal maestro Pearce, guitarist/keyboardist Clive Gilling (a member since 1987) and drummer Ray Webb (who has played with the band since 1990, bar an eight-year hiatus from 2002 to 2010) have managed to plug the gap between them, with Webb even delivering his first lead vocal on a Lungs album, on the ballad Jacqueline.
The Lungs kick things off with the rollocking ‘Beach Patrol’, with an intro that owes more than a passing resemblance to The Beach Boys’ Fun, Fun, Fun, and it would come as no surprise that the legendary Californian group are a huge source of inspiration for the Lungs, who originate from Bracknell, in Berkshire, but can often be seen playing down in Brighton.
They also cite The Ramones and The Monkees as big influences, and nowhere is that seen more than the title of their new album, which is based on The Last Train To Clarksville, which was a smash hit for the ‘Prefab Four’, in 1966.
“Some of the finest upbeat songs”
The ominous-sounding album title (Last Wave bit) may concern some Lungs fans who worry that this could be their swansong, a parting gift as they drift off into the sunset and retirement. But fear not, there should be plenty more tunes to come from a bunch of guys who don’t know how to hold back and can deliver some of the finest upbeat songs that scream summer this side of Redondo Beach.
‘She Knows Jack’ and ‘Boardrider’ on ‘side two’ steam along at a fine pace, while ‘A Summer To Remember’ is a cracking number to close the album with, a fitting tribute to Dean who co-wrote the track before he took some time out.
‘Bump That!’ is a catchy singalong ditty, propelled by Gilling’s horn-sounding keyboard, before the boys launch into the rip-roaring ‘The Boys Dig Her The Most’, while ‘Topdown In The Rain’ sees Pearce slowing things down, but only a little.
‘Giant Scorpion Attack’, is a thumping, hard rock/synthesiser pastiche to the corny, monster films of the 60s, the rock’n’roll-themed ‘What Would Elvis Do’ swings, despite the goofy lyrics, and ‘Summer In The Metro’ offers up the pitfalls of travelling on the underground in the hot, sticky summers, again to a punchy backbeat.
Gilling always gets the chance to showcase one of his own tunes on the album – following on from ‘Mr Gasser Go’, ‘Go, Go, Bubblegum Summer’ and ‘The Girl With The Joey Ramone Tattoo’ from the previous three albums, this time he presents ‘San Diego Dreaming’. And, he threatens to steal the show once more.
Strumming along on an acoustic guitar while delivering a gritty vocal, the Lungs fill out the sound behind him, making this song one of the standouts on the album.
As usual, the Lungs fill out the record with a couple of instrumentals, with the self-penned, bass-heavy plodder ‘Date With Danger’ and ‘Z-Cars’, adding their own distinctive style to the theme tune of the popular 60s/70s TV police drama. They have covered The Munsters and The Godfather themes in the past, and Z-Cars seems a strange choice and while they give it some zing, it’s the only track on the album that fails to hit the mark for me. And even then, it only just misses.
Final word goes to the excellent album cover, which is a throwback to the surf/hot rod LPs of the early 60s. Obviously inspired by The Beach Boys’ 1964 release All Summer Long, with a picture montage of surfers, cool kids dancing and playing on the beach, and the instruments played by the band, it gets you in the mood even before you’ve spun the first track.
Last Wave To Surfsville CD by The Surfin’ Lungs is available now from surfinlungs.co.uk