[16 September 2009]
Pizza Hero is the second release by Brooklyn-based group Boogie Boarder on Famous Class, a DIY label-slash-collective of musicians and artists that have been working together since 2003 on a variety of projects including records, DVDs, and even comics. From the outset, Boogie Boarder would have you believe it is a simple high-concept proposition: lo-fi surf pop. The band doesn’t seem to mind: Boogie Boarder’s press describes its sound as “the beast-lord avatar of a two-minute pop song”, and the booklet-shaped packaging is littered with precious drawings like nude people with hamburger heads and cats clinging to the waves on boogie boards. In theory, it should all be tinny surf licks played dead simple and with little musical finesse. Simple, really?
Well, the music on Boogie Boarder’s second release isn’t entirely consistent with the image it attempts to convey. Rather, the eight-song album plays like Midwestern noise rockers trying to craft their idea of a fun summertime pop album, which is far more interesting. Any hints of surf rock are twisted about and stretched out into winding riffs of numerous sorts. More importantly, vocals are sparse, largely limited to atmospheric “ahhhs” and the occasional sing-along refrain. Boogie Boarder’s approach is quite honestly much truer to the original spirit of surf music than any standard tremolo-ed guitar lick backed by rumbling drums has been in a long while.
The first two songs, “Sparks” and “Bio Hassle”, are not too far off from the high concept byline. The guitars buzz politely, the bass guitar is a squelching, fuzzy contraption, and the drums sound like knuckles rapping on glass. The first clue that something’s amiss is that there’s a nice separation of sound, allowing the band to emphasize instrumental interplay. It’s with the third and fourth track, “Pig Pile Part One” and “Pig Pile Part Two”, that the group’s math rock background crystallizes fully. This pair of songs showcases meandering song structures, clattering liquid riffs, and gargantuan surges from quiet to loud and back again; these traits are present through the album, but these two songs markedly point them out. Boogie Boarder’s chops are worth admiring, and it is definitely nice to hear something aside from the same bouncy rhythms and “la-la-la” vocals you’d get on much DIY indie pop.
Ultimately, Pizza Hero is indeed lo-fi surf pop, but Boogie Boarder’s Load Records jones ensures the album hits the mark in a way that’s not panderingly obvious. The point of surf music in the first place was to try and convey the sounds and sensations of the Pacific Coast through a Fender guitar and a tube amp, everything from the feel of one’s body cruising the tide in order to find the perfect wave, to simply strolling down the beach on a warm summer afternoon with no clear idea of what to do. Over time, invention became cliché, and what constituted surf music became tired variations on a theme that lost sight of its original intent. Boogie Boarder isn’t and has no intention of being the Ventures, and approaching beach music from a different genre perspective is what makes this a fine summertime album. This is a rough and tumble record for a day on the sand, a catchy soundtrack for drinking with your buddies too close to the water and starting a bonfire when the sun goes down.