You Talk Too Much (surfmutations.bandcamp.com)
On their self-released 7-inch EP, You Talk Too Much, the Mutations prove themselves the latest Knoxville rock band to put across a clear and crucial youthfulness, but in their case that quality also extends to a cleverness of approach. Surf music has, in the past few decades, become more or less a riff refuge for mellowing punks and math rockers; but here, over four songs, the Mutations lean reverently towards the genre’s bedrock in early ’60s youth music. The barrel-rolls and reverb are still there (and out in front on instrumental “The Tommy”), but so are the vocal hooks and harmonies, and more importantly the attitudes. “Surfer’s Dream” mimics the sentimental longing of so many high-school slow dances, while the title track doubles down on silly angst with vocal rounds equal parts smile and taunt. But it all comes together best on closer “Beach Bong Baby,” which nails down a more timeless theme of fleeting summer romance. It’s even that rare sort of song where a punchline chorus somehow turns it into an anthem: “She broke my heart/she broke my bong/I cried all summer long.” It’s the least polished performance on the EP, but also the one that speaks loudest to the band’s sincerity in a genre where that’s never been a given.