Sursum Verbo – FOOL EP
Indie rock doesn’t get much more by the book than this, and nor does it get much more infectious and joyful.
As Sursum Verbo’s FOOL EP opens with ‘9 Volt’, the band throws out a crunchy indie sound that makes no effort to hide influences from Sonic Youth and other mid nineties college rock bands. The song’s structure and arrangement even has touches of Pavement, those great slacker kings, going on (think Wowee Zowie era). It really is the kind of song that in some ways is ‘so hip it hurts’, and when the creaking synth notes creep in after the track’s mid point, Sursum Verbo have put their cards well and truly on the table in terms of what they are all about. It’s a great start and the ideal way to prepare the listener for what to expect next. As a result, it should come as no surprise that ‘What You Can’ keeps the FOOL EP going in the right direction with its Pixies style ballsy bassline on the opening bars, before building into a clattering garage rock cacophony, eventually sounding somewhere between a more polished version of Kurt Cobain’s boom box demos and the kind of thing the Vaselines sometimes get up to when they are feeling more adventurous. Moving on, and opening with a misleading drum intro that has shades of 2-step or Jamaican dancehall, the track goes on to become a display of grumbling punk rock that borrows a few ideas from Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Territorial Pissings’. Having got this far, it comes as something of a surprise when ‘Looking Back’ appears on the scene with its bright and snappy guitars, creating a flash of sunlight in the midst of all the closed door garage punk rock. Sursum Verbo’s songwriting is notably creative in its construction, particularly where ‘Looking Back’ reaches its outro with its ‘Here we go again’ refrain, as if to grab and drag the listener by the scruff of their neck. There’s simply something about the band’s dynamic, their sound, and the sheer confidence in their performance that makes for such engaging listening. And so, as the FOOL EP reaches its conclusion with its final track ‘These Rooms’, the laid back, effortless cool continues to roll on with its perfect balance of thundering bass, spiky guitars, insistent drums, and vocals that give Pixies’ Black Francis a real run for his money. Ultimately what we have here is five tracks that represent some catchy, competent, and regularly thrilling indie rock. If you’re a fan of the wonky slacker rock of Pixies and Pavement, or the more intensely thought out musings of Sonic Youth, chances are that this is either going to really tick all your boxes, or you’ll find it too derivative to be able to engage with. I’d probably come down on the side of the former rather than the latter of the two – as far as I’m concerned there is always room in the world for more guitar bands with some edge and attitude.