They may have left it late, but here comes Leeds lads Black Surf with the finest opening to any album this year. Take a bow one-man flyposting crusader and Angry Citizen Chris Jackson. I dread to think how you feel being immortalised on record (I look forward to finding out on album number 2…).
The good news is that Black Surf can match this irreverent and fiery start on ‘Let’s Pretend It’s Summer’, a full-length expansion that builds on their four-track EP released back in August.
With nods to Ash, Feeder, Weezer and various other 90s alt-pop, power-pop and indie acts, Black Surf play unashamedly bouncy indie-pop, filled with hooky choruses, punchy vocals and just enough swagger to deliver the goods stylishly and convincingly.
It’s well paced too; at 17 songs ‘Let’s Pretend It’s Summer’ could have felt punishing – it’s certainly a brave gambit for a debut album – yet most of it sticks thanks to clever use of light and shade which, combined with easy, foot-tapping melodies and street smart lyrics, ensures an enjoyable listen for the most part.
‘Screaming at the Sky’ for example is a grunge-lite riot, tipping its hat casually to Weezer as it rattles past, carried by one of the finest riffs you could hear all year, while the winsome ‘Army of Sleep’ keeps a similar loud/quiet dynamic but throws textured harmonies and sumptuous melodies into the mix, keeping the sound fresh and exciting.
Unsurprisingly, for a 17-song effort, there’s the odd misstep. The bluesy ‘Burn it to the Ground’ only half succeeds, redeemed by yet another glorious chorus, while the rat-a-tat-tat spoken word of ‘Dive’ is somewhat jarring.
But – and I think this is the crux of what works so well on ‘Let’s Pretend It’s Summer’ – when Black Surf keep it simple and stick to their tried and trusted dynamic, they are spectacularly good. Take ‘Sink’, for example. It’s an uncomplicated three-and-a-half minute riot of woozy keyboards and razor-sharp riffs, easily infectious and a winner from start to finish. Best tell our friend Chris Jackson to keep hold of those posters – they might be worth a bob or two in a few years…
‘Let’s Pretend It’s Summer’ by Black Surf is out now.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)