A Cold-Weather Anthem for the Cold-Hearted

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "California Girls"
  • Artist: The Magnetic Fields
  • CD: Distortion
  • Genre: Pop
The Magnetic Fields 300

The Magnetic Fields' "California Girls" hums and reverberates with defiled surf-rock. courtesy of The Magnetic Fields hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields may build albums around high concepts — see: 69 Love Songs, i — but Distortion is built around a sound. Not surprisingly, Distortion is 13 tracks of exactly that.

"California Girls" hums and reverberates with defiled surf-rock — a fitting response to Brian Wilson, if a few decades late. With its unexpected mantra ("I hate California girls"), the anti-summer, anti-superficial cold-weather anthem, from under several layers of sweaters, invites listeners to huddle up in front of a fire and hate on the tanned, bare skin of the West Coast.

Sung with supreme confidence by Shirley Simms, with the faint outlines of a catchy melody glimmering under a cloud of fuzz, the song claims that the women of the Golden State "breathe coke and have affairs with each passing rock star" and sneers at their "perfect noses" and "perfect teeth." The strange mix of sarcasm, social commentary, and schoolgirl jealousy is as transparent as the guitar riffs — which is to say, not very. But it does take a tongue planted firmly in cheek to take on The Beach Boys in the middle of winter.

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This story originally ran on Jan. 18, 2008.

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