Ignoring the decidedly ’90s aesthetic of Black Surf’s grunge-tinged indie-pop, this British/Australian project could not be more emblematic of the music industry in its current transitive state. Made possible by FaceTime and Dropbox, Let’s Pretend It’s Summer is the sound of indie music in 2016: a little lost and overwhelmed by its influences, but undeniably infectious pop rock.
Clocking in at just over 10 minutes, the four tracks that make up Let’s Pretend It’s Summer collectively form a snappy, slick taste of what is to come from Black Surf. Being a band based in both Leeds and Sydney, the EP’s title could refer to it currently being winter down under or the sentiment that it may as well be here in the UK. Its name will remain relevant long after its release date, however, with its high energy and colourful melodies seeming to suggest that Black Surf will be helping us pretend it’s summer all year round.
Opening track Sink sets the tone of the record with big, bold drums and screeching guitars placing its opening bars in the midst of the ’90s, sounding like a Creation Records album somewhere between the shoegaze years and the peak of Britpop. Vocalist Ali Elstone’s charismatic delivery battles with the guitars as it is drowned in a sea of feedback and effects. His melodious vocal lines clash with the crunching bass in a masterfully produced collision of glossy indie-pop and moody grunge.
The following three tracks are just as exhilarating: up-tempo, engaging, and, in the case of Elstone’s performances, not without a hint of that wit and humour that works so well on the early works of The Strokes and The Libertines.
One uniformly disappointing element of the EP is each track’s inability to deviate from the familiar four-chord structure of its verses and choruses. Perhaps the band simply isn’t interested in such a pursuit – their manifesto is clear throughout the record, and it doesn’t involve lengthy musical experimentation – but each middle section before a final chorus feels rushed, like a begrudging necessity, and that just doesn’t sit right.
This is a small, relatively inconsequential gripe. What is evident on Let’s Pretend It’s Summer is that Black Surf has all the vibrancy and energy of ambitious indie bands of the past, even if the band’s members are separated by miles of sea and a pair of computer screens.
Echoes of Radiohead, Weezer and Green Day may find their way onto this EP, but Black Surf are truly a band for 2016.
Let’s Pretend It’s Summer is out on 26 August 2016 via Cowboy Records.