The Surfrajettes - Roller Fink

The Surfrajettes - Roller Fink

The Surfrajettes are the biggest ambassadors of surf music to emerge in a while, largely stemming from the viral success of their "Toxic" youtube video. I've caught them being played on my radio station by other DJs, several friends have sent me the aforementioned video, and my friends at a record store alerted me to this album being in stock when I walked in for Record Store Day without my asking. Of course in the internet age no attention is ever purely good attention, and surf discussion groups on facebook catch fire at the mention of the band, with comments ranging from slimy remarks on their appearance, backlash against those remarks, sexist skepticism about their musical chops, jealousy towards their success, and frustration over seeing the same video posted every two days (as well as a good amount of genuine appreciation of course).

The irony is that The Surfrajettes do not, as far as I can tell, aim to be controversial, subversive, or even mysterious. This is not a riot grrl surf equivalent, as one might consider The Trashwomen to be. This is a group of women based in Toronto with a strong mid-century aesthetic playing pretty dang traditional surf music -- and in a pretty upbeat, non-aggressive manner at that! They've had three 7"s, played plenty of shows, and even had a youtube series that have made this pretty clear, but even I have to admit that that nothing ever feels like a true statement of what a band truly is until they've released an LP.

And I think this LP takes everything that you should have already known about The Surfrajettes, and radiates it.

The theme here is roller rink, but they don't lean too hard into that, even adding seagulls into the intro track. There is absolutely a vibe though. It's care-free, easy-going, dreamy, and I'm tempted to say laid-back, but no -- this is on-your-feet and doesn't have that lazy feeling that some surf bands aim for. To give you an idea, their choice of cover for a vintage surf song, Richie Allen's "Surfer's Slide" is a perfect fit. Fun, bright, friendly, and nice.

And since we're mentioning covers, and since the band's popularity was built on a cover, let's go over those! We've got "Train Kept a Rollin", which is done by many groups but I think hear Yardbirds most in this, Blondie's "Heart of Glass", and The Beatles' "She Loves You". "Heart of Glass" is a great fit for their sound and the album's feel. I wouldn't say it does anything new with the original, but it's a pleasure to hear anyway. I really think they nailed it with 'She Loves You"; once again it's a perfect fit for this record, but I think the guitar tone adds a new sweetness and a touch of sadness that the original lacked, and some little guitar flourishes turn this into a really beautiful track in a way that The Beatles didn't really go for.

Originals! The opener "Warm Up" is much more of a song than the name might suggest, with a bubbly beat, bass that looms large but doesn't threaten, and melodies switching from staccato twittering to lush baritone. The tone of it is just great, really showing so much of what hi-fi trad surf excels at.

I think "Roxy Roller" is a really interesting track. It's positioned at Track 3 (though the second song when you count the intro), often one of the most high-energy spots on a record and this absolutely isn't. This does have the sort of easy sway of a nice few easy laps around a roller rink -- taking it in, appreciating the scene and the flow. It's a hypnotic track that somehow escapes being boring despite being so restrained. (edit: it was pointed out in the comments that

The title track was an immediate favorite of mine, reminding me strongly of perhaps my favorite Ventures song "Go-Go Dancer" (aka "Kickstand") with it's chirpy guitar, bubbly melody and explosive drums, but it's very much its own thing too, with a little more mystery and a great guitar solo.

One thing that is especially noticeable in these originals is some really exceptional arrangement between the two guitars. Shermy and Nicole have been the nucleus of the band since its inception and based on their youtube videos during the pandemic I believe they were in lockdown together, and I think that bond is audible. It's hard to decide what's lead sometimes and each guitarist supports and enhances the other extremely well in these songs.

In general, my surf tastes lean towards the aggressive side, and that's never been a side demonstrated on their previous releases... or here! But there's just such a strong, cohesive, great feeling from this record that it absolutely won me over. I've followed them on youtube long enough to know they have a greater range than this, but this wasn't just a compilation of all the songs they can play. These songs were made for this album, sequenced in such a way to inform you how you're supposed to appreciate it. The result is one of the most complete and enjoyable surf records I've heard this year, and I think it must be exactly what they wanted for their first LP.

On bandcamp and from Hi-Tide's store. I don't usually care about colored vinyl but this is a group with a strong aesthetic and I have to admit it looks very pleasing having that pink record sit on my turntable next to the album art.


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