Release Date: June 23rd, 2014
One thing about eagerly waiting for something for too long is that you start to worry that you are building it up too much and that surely this is going to end in disappointment. Such was the case with the debut album from Vancouver’s Reef Shark. It was recorded in 2013 but for some reason it has been languishing for many months with only the odd teaser to keep us tantalized (like the video to “Frozen Beach”). Well, the debut is finally here and fortunately the record was definitely worth waiting for. It is, in fact, one of the best Canadian indie albums of the year so far.
Reef Shark is the dynamo duo of Devin Miller (vocals, guitars) and Garth Covernton (drums), a couple of West Coast boys who really know how to put on a garage rock beach party. Aside from a couple of autumnal gusts, “Better Weather” is a summery affair that conjures up images of a beautiful day on Jericho Beach with the sun dancing crazily on the water. The mood shifts from gentle dreaminess to psychedelic tripping to intense emotional outbursts, but the scent of the surf and the beach campfire smoke is always in the air.
The opening track “Enter the RFSHRK” proves to be fairly typical — a noise pop number featuring solid choruses and some good, grungy guitar riffs. The album slowly picks up momentum before peaking with a trio of stunners starting with “Hedonysmal” on which Miller outdoes himself with quirky chord changes and spacey background effects. The instrumental “Feeding Frenzy” is a high energy blast of punked-up new wave. The last of the trio is the album’s utter standout “Lazer Blues”, which starts off slow but soon unleashes a sonic wall of fuzzed-out guitars. In the middle there is a psychedelic instrumental interlude, but just as you are about to enter into a meditative state the guitar assault returns with full force like a kick in the gut.
Despite the overall emphasis on noisy fun, there is the odd reflective moment, such as the nostalgic “Those Days” and the mournful “G.O.L.D.W.A.V.E.S.” which closes the album with an intriguing coda where Miller revisits the song’s refrain but in an electronically modified voice that is reedy and distant.
Although their sound is somewhat raw (and this is a genuine DIY effort), Miller and Covernton display such a high level of musicianship and professionalism that they elevate this work above its surf garage foundations. You may at times feel like you are on a surfy ride through space but this really isn’t rocket science, it is simple, straight-forward rock and pop — Reef Shark just pull it off with such finesse that they have you convinced this is something more sophisticated.