There are always gems that land in my lap that I love, but seem to miss out on the accolades they deserve. At least Stateside, that fate seemed to befall The Surfing Magazines’ debut. Shame, though, as it seems like the kind of album that would whollop the indie stalwarts over the head and leave a heart-shaped bruise. I still consider it one of the great overlooked debuts of the last ten years and now the band has returned with a followup in the way of Badgers of Wymeswold which despite the whimsical title, doesn’t delve into kid lit concept rock. Instead the band, which combines members of Slow Club and The Wave Pictures, expand upon the ground they cover on their eponymous debut. Stark, cigarette-panted riffs meet with midnight alley sneer, plush orchestrations, and just a touch of the surf promised by the name. They’ve always kept ‘surf’ as a kind of attitude more than a mandate and it works well. Rather than scrape the aughts tape deck beaten garage-surf surge, they pair Velvets grind with sax stabs that aren’t afraid to skew noisy and the occasional Astronauts guitar slide for good measure.
For Badgers, they also wind their way through acoustic daydreams, the kind that might dredge up the West Coast saltwater skies they aspire to rather than their own grey-streaked pebble beaches. There’s even a bit of country ramble, a ballad or two that loosen ties and mist eyes, and jazz skronk that flashes an edge of tooth. The garage they’d tried to sequester themselves in was never that well sealed, and the door always remained open to whatever influences wandered their way. That dedication to eclecticism looks good on them for Badgers. Its not as tight and lacerating as their first (double LPs will tend to wind up that way) but there are plenty of highlights packed into the extended runtime here. I still maintain, if you’ve missed that debut, it should be the place to start, but once that one’s in your bloodstream, then continue on through the fray the boys on Badgers.
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