I’m a couple weeks behind on this release, but I think you’ll be happy with this release regardless of when you hear it. This new three song 7″ was released on January 15th on Topshelf, and it’s already garnered some good buzz. I was sent one of the songs to check out and immediately knew that I would like it. There’s something about this small group of bands that mix things like americana and punk together that I really enjoy. It’s got equal amounts of Weezer and early Wilco influences with a really irreverent attitude that comes off great in these new songs.
By Surprise have been playing together for seven years, and you can tell they’re in sync. This isn’t a band seeking technical perfection, they want to get into your skin. And they do just that. Right off the bat with the title track, “Criteria,” Patrick Gartland’s vocals creep around in your head until you’re seeing things through his eyes. The guitar squeals and persistent drums give the song a hefty momentum that contrasts with the lyrics, which would seem just as at home in a lovelorn ballad.
“Wear That Crown” is the most radio ready track of the three. If you like stuff like All-American Rejects I would start with this song and then check out the others. It reminds me a little bit of a harder version of some of the popular rock of the 90’s. There’s a great balance here between playing at a breakneck speed and slowing it down when they need to-a credit to the rhythm section for toeing the line. It’s a sharp number with wide appeal. It’s engaging without playing down to the lowest common denominator.
I really like the guitar and bass work on “Way To Be Tall.” The lead guitar lays on this layer of spatter over the primer provided by the bass. They just work so well together that I would find it impossible to accept any other version of the song. The lyrics about growing up are playful and biting in the chorus-“I’m waiting for you to start trying. I’m waiting for you to stop crying and start dying.”
Music is a pretty subjective artform, so I don’t expect everyone to dig these guys. They’ve got my number, though. Sometimes it’s hard to explain. They’re a few years younger than I am, but I assume we listened to a lot of the same music in our journeys to where we are today. I’ll have to go back and check out their back catalogue, but from what I’ve heard so far I’m more than happy to recommend you go pick up this 7″. I don’t know of any tour plans as of now, but By Surprise are from south Jersey, so maybe some east coast dates are on the horizon.