The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds has a long and illustrious history of promoting young talent in the city, so on entering the new Community Room I had high expectations.
I came for Black Surf – a dirty, heavy bass synth-line drones out to welcome early punters before frontman Ali Epstone took the stage to begin what was to become a tour de force of modern alt-rock. Of chiselled jawline and protruding cheekbones, Epstone immediately embodied a likability that will propel the three-piece far beyond these well-trodden floors.
Sonically though, the band are offering something very different. Opener “Into the Night” sounds like something spliced from Weezer’s debut album and On Avery Island-era Neutral Milk Hotel, while having the low-end supplied by the synth made a refreshing change, allowing Epstone to masterfully handle guitar and vocals. During their all-too-short set, Black Surf manages to combine elements of punk, college rock, dance and pop, making a pleasingly familiar yet original noise.
Particular highlights were “Open Fire” and “Poor Me”, that bounced along with a frenetic pace akin to that of The Thermals at their best, but throughout Epstone’s vocals came across as so heartfelt that they would happily sit alongside such heroes as Get Up Kids, as well as more recent artists like Grouplove and Young the Giant. However, I never felt that the band were content to rest on their laurels by referencing genre mainstays, choosing to walk their own path when thinking out what different breaks and twists to throw into the mix.
Final track “Lights Out” shows the band at their bravest, with just piano and vocal weaving between synth-line and drums. As soon as the last beat is struck, those in attendance realise they have witnessed something very special. Black Surf possesses a great blend of ambition, confidence, and a bag full of great tunes. Remember the name, they have lift-off.
Black Surf play Old Blue Last, London on November 5th. Go. It’s free!
Find Black Surf at their very own website!