While punk is still an exciting genre for political music like Surfbort, it still needs something new to grab people. Surfbort’s lengthy album is filled with passionate poetry and statements about how things need to change but so many of the songs are simple thrashing that it feels samey. With their sparing fleshed-out tracks, Surfbort show how far they could go if they really focus their writing in the future.
All the fury comes out strong on “Hi Anxiety” as Surfbort manage to musically harness their stresses into something punchy. Though the track is a little lyrically on-the-nose at first, it gets more interesting in the slow breakdowns. In terms of spirit, Surfbort put their best foot forward in brutal tracks like “Feed” and “Slushy” but their personality just isn’t enough to make this punk less derivative. At the very least “Pretty Little Fucker” brings its potent and blunt message out to make a fun rock track.
In the sunnier approach to “Sunshine” there’s a grimy and fun drive that makes their more metaphorical lyricism stand out. Here they find a force behind their fierce writing to make something really intense and new. The chorus chants of “Les Be In Love” is a hilarious but charging cry, similar to how the explosive guitars of “Trashworld” demand you start moving and freaking out. “Dope” finds their strengths for honest lyrics and detailed riffing hitting a stronger high again, breaking out of their punk simplicity for something truly compelling and emotionally right for their stories.
“White People” freshens up punk however, providing Sonic Youth levels of effect density in the chords Surfbort fire off with. All this gives their story of privilege and societal blindness more weight and intrigue than they often offer. It’s a shame however that many of their dystopian messages on tracks like “Burn” or even “Rats” for that matter just feel under-served by the very familiar (Misfits-esque) thrashing that bolsters them. Alternatively, “Hillside Strangler” at least turns this into something haunting and tells a story of real horror and female violence in a tale of murderous victim-hood.
As they round out their extenseive record on “Stalker” their more open approach to rock is powerful and memorable, as they groan out of hazy shredding. This lets each line come off as a hook of its own, before the euphoric choruses demand to be shouted back. “45” has statements that need to be said about our current societal treatment of women, but often hits so bluntly that people might not stick around to hear it. That’s what makes “Selfie” such a mixed bag, as their reflection of self-indulgence is muddled a story of using pictures as a tool of immortalization.
Words by Owen Maxwell