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Sponge Cake (Sweat It Out)

Fake is such a harsh word when applied to music. It’s not one I apply readily.

For example, there’s often not a lot of worth in claims of cultural appropriation - hey, Iggy Azalea wasn’t offensive because she was a white woman rapping in the manner of a black American; it was the fact she did it so egregiously badly.

Personas are hardly unusual in pop music generally and offer a chance to play; accents are neither here nor there in the end (and sometimes real ones sound fake: see The Waifs); and sincerity is as easily faked as a pearl-button checked shirt and battered acoustic guitar.

But then sometimes fake just feels like the right word. And Winston Surfshirt are fakers.

That doesn’t mean they can’t play, it doesn’t mean they can’t write a perfectly acceptable song. It doesn’t even mean they aren’t serious about creating the environment they’ve forged here.

What it means is that I don’t believe a single thing on this album.

It canvasses styles galore, from lightweight psychedelia and sun-kissed electro to old school disco and smiley hip hop, from pop and blunt-toasted rapping to pale reggae and lazy soul. The ultimate careerist box ticking exercise you might say.

They lope and they slouch, they slip on some brass and kick up the beats like they picked up Sly and the Family Stone via an Arrested Development cover band. You can see a mid-size room jumping up and down. What’s not to like?

Except this is Pond and Electric Guest with their edges rubbed off, Fight Facilities and Chromeo without the killer tunes. Actually, it’s Sticky Fingers with irony instead of blokey bonhomie obscuring the same calculation and the way a good time festival feel masks the emptiness.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

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