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  • James Arter

MUSIC REVIEW - Black Surf - 'Make Friends With Hell'

Black Surf - 'Make Friends With Hell' (EP)

Release Date: 01.12.23

Without warning, Make Friends With Hell kicks off ferociously with Vultures. This opening track could easily sit comfortably on Weezer’s Pinkerton album - you know, the album where they just thought, ‘Let’s keep it raw and smash them in the face with this one’? It’s a great way to start an EP. I’m interested. If you grew up listening to 90’s grunge and rock then I feel you’d be interested too.

The drums are big (I love that big room sound), the guitars are fuzzy (I feel like I’m hearing a Big Muff guitar pedal, but I could be wrong), the bass is growly (just the right amount, too) and the vocals are wonderfully strong and melodic; this is exactly what my grungy heart beats for.

Let’s move back to the actual songs for a minute…

Vultures - that lively opening track - grabs you right away and is a perfect start to an EP. In fact, it’s a perfect start to a gig too. If I hadn’t planned to see this band live and they started with this song, I forgo my trip to the bar and stick around to hear what they did next. In the case of the EP, it’s Lights Out - an anthemic and emotive banger, one that gets you right in the feels and makes you wanna scream your lungs fully out of air. Surprisingly, it’s 4 minutes long. It doesn’t feel like it is, it feels far shorter, which is always a good sign. I also think it’s this song where singer, Ali’s, voice really shines, it’s full of emotion and has a glorious amount of natural distortion on those big choruses. Nice work.

Next up - ooh, awkward third song - is Oh, Poor Me. I hate to always compare new music to older bands but it’s an evil that kind of has to happen really and, in this case, I’m hearing Weezer and The Pixies. This mid-tempo corker is driven by a simple - and super solid - drum beat and growly bass. Personally, the moments in the verses where you can really hear that bass is what really did it for me. Actually, now I’m truly thinking about it, that was what pulled me into the song - that was the gateway drug - but what kept me there was the space that this song has. It feels more vulnerable. Add back into the mix those fuzzy guitars of wonder and, as a beautiful icing on the cake, it’s - again - Ali’s vocals. This time more wispy and atmospheric, really adding an extra dimension to the song. It makes me think slightly of early Dave Grohl, his double-tracked, very close-sounding vocals in Floaty from the first Foo’s record, it’s got the same vulnerability.

I know I cheekily mentioned ‘awkward’ at the start here but, just to be clear, there’s nothing awkward about this song at all, it’s actually very comfortable. The band know exactly what they’re doing here, they’re taking the listening somewhere else for a bit and they’re doing it bloody well.

Baby Blue Washburn is the final track to the EP and it starts right away with a single guitar with Ali’s - once again - close, emotive, vulnerable voice. There’s no messing around with this song: no intro, no preamble, just straight into the song and then it does exactly what I wanted it to do by smashing you right around the chops with a slammer of a chorus. They could’ve easily eeked that out a little bit and I would’ve still been interested, however, I’m so glad they just did the right thing and gave us all what we wanted (yes, I’m now speaking for us all, sorry about that, but I feel so strongly that absolutely everybody would agree with me).

This is probably the most ‘Weezer’ of them all - more apologies for the comparison again - but that is really not a bad thing, it’s a good thing because, firstly, Weezer are great and, secondly, it’s the best type of Weezer there is: proper 90’s Weezer.

This song is fantastically catchy and is a tremendous end to an EP. My only sadness about this song is that it’s just over 2 minutes long - I want more! But, let’s face it, leaving the listener wanting more is not a bad thing because it makes you do what I did and play it again from the start (this might well have been all part of their evil plan).

Now, I know I’ve mentioned a few 90’s grunge/rock references when talking about this release but I feel like that’s okay because the band make it quite clear that that is what they’re all about. There’s no ambiguity here, this is not an eclectic mix of folk, metal, pop, and neo-soul, they know exactly what they were aiming for and that’s 4 tracks of banging, grungy rock songs with a sprinkle of something new.

If you like any of the bands mentioned - or just like listening to well-written songs from a band who know exactly what they are - then you will like this EP.


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