Nov 202019

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate a pun as stupid-brilliant as “Medieval Knieval” needs more joy in their life. And the beauty of surf-rock music is that titling a song “Medieval Knieval” doesn’t require any daredevil-knight lyrics to live up to the billing. After all, I don’t know what “Walk, Don’t Run” had to do with strolling safely.

Has any genre hit such a peak and suffered as steep a decline as surf-rock? To anyone who doesn’t know – and it seems hard to believe – surf-rock wasn’t some short-lived novelty in the ’60s. It was genuinely, real-life massive. For a time, Beatles massive. In the space of a decade, surf-rock icons The Ventures alone charted 38 separate albums. Then the ’60s ended, and the surf-rock wave crashed. Hard. These days, surf-rock carries about as much cultural capital as polka.

But popularity never did equal quality. Even if surf-rock today is not as big, it can still be as good. “Medieval Knieval” scratches that itch with some quick guitar runs, Spaghetti Western expansiveness, and a whole lot of reverb. I’m not saying we need a full surf-rock revival, but surely there’s room in the ocean to bring a once-beloved genre back to the surface.

Check out more entries in our month-long series on The Best Songs of the 2010s.

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