Surfbort - Keep on Truckin' (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Keep on Truckin' (2021)


By their very existence, Surfbort subvert the band-gets-hype-and-then-bombs-out-on-drugs cliché because, well, singer Dani Miller formed Surfbort on the day she got off drugs. And while the first album kind of hissed and scowled at the world, the band’s second proper LP, Keep on Truckin’ looks at the positive side of life.

And of course, Miller’s perspective of “positive” means that the album opens with an answering machine message from the police stating that Miller is in the hospital due to alcohol poisoning only for Miller to scream “FML… I want to kill myself!” All of that being said, it is a sunnier release, though thankfully the band retains their claws.

Without question, the sunnier side is at least partially due to the hand of uber producer Linda Perry. As Miller has stated in interviews, Perry took the band’s 45 second punk bashers and stretched them out and brought out the underlying songcraft. A lot of the songs here have a crisp snap and catchy, simple riffage, yet they are supplemented by big, broad strokes that are remiscent of glam, or, if not that, then the 90s appropriation of glam via grunge. This is evident on tracks like “FML” or the amazing closer “Cheap Glue,” that sits between the intersection of Glam Bowie, Bauhaus, and Nirvana. The argument, seemingly, is that Surfbort always were great songwriters (check out the perfect snap on the riff of “Lot Lizard 93”) but they needed an outside influence to pull joy out of the rage and frustration that ran over everything they put out.

Still, while this is a genuinely happier record, Miller herself seems to drift from joy to depression to rage like a plastic bag in the wind. This is what makes this such a rich record. For the most part, these songs are shaped from a sort of ambiguous poetry that suggests a message, but a stream-of-consciousness pulls bends the songs around corners. Check out these lyrics: “Love is an illusion / I’m not going nowhere / Smiling while I’m choking on my enemies / All I do is laugh away the pain.” Whoa. While Kurt or Frank Black might draft despondent, sinking lyrics similar to these, Miller keeps a certain wild eyed frenzied here that can, often does, snap into joy or straight up rage. Just dig the nonchalant “ha ha…” that closes “Lot Lizard.”

Yet, the band does keep a few old-school-Surfbort punk ragers in there. “White Claw Enema Bonghit” is a hilarious tear down of Frat boy culture and it also underlines the subtext that perennially seems to be tied into frat boy hazing culture (you know what I’m saying). Also, “Killed by Food” could have ben on the first Descendents record or even something by Fear. What I particularly like about these tracks is why the title suggests something fun and stupid, if you dig down into the lyrics, there’s actually punk style political analysis at a pretty high level.

I don’t want to say that Surfbort are “maturing” because the “Happier” side of them was always there. So, what I will say, is that the band is revealing more of themselves. It’s a thrill that the band is able to address “happiness” in a unique - and damaged - context. But… It’s also a thrill that the 45 second punk bangers are still there, too.