Blackball Bandits - The Cursed Island

Blackball Bandits - The Cursed Island

Just about everything I've written about this band has something talking about how I thought they were special when I first heard some demo EPs on bandcamp years ago. And I can't think of a better intro, so looks like I just did it again. But at this point I think I need to retire the narrative of ascending stars in the surf scene. Their first LP on Double Crown, The Lost Mission, was excellent and even found its way into the . They have arrived, whatever that may mean in this niche.

Their second LP doesn't change the formula much, but it feels louder and more vigorous, and the opening track lets you know this with cavernously reverberating drum beat leading into a great surf sound into a buzzy guitar crunch. Simple, but absolutely charges you up. This leads straight into "Bullshark"'s thundering march.

While it cools down a little from there, those two absolutely get your blood moving and carry energy over into the following songs with more emotional space and intricate guitar work. Really, whenever I feel like one of these tracks is about to start dragging, they introduce something to pick it up, like the quick-picked baritone guitar in the middle of "Chutes and Ladders".

The latter half of the album has some if its strongest moments, and oddly enough starts to turn spookier. "The Wolves and the Fireflies" is currently a standout track of the year so far. Many surf songs that have stood as classics for decades are built on single riffs, but I feel like this one has three ideas for a song shoved into one, switching from thrill to thrill. I'm pretty sure I was a less safe driver hearing it in my car for the first time.

"Green Beach" feels like a party you maybe should leave. Upbeat but rough, and turns scummy halfway through... but we're still having too much fun.

"Powerline" has some of the might from those first two tracks, and then "Glowin' Skeletons" (released earlier as a single) takes that energy and shoves it to an uncomfortable speed. Then they zip the whole thing up with a take on the Dick Dale classic "Nightrider".

Overall The Cursed Island delivers more of what made The Lost Mission so great. If forced to name a difference between the two, I would say that this one trades in some of the scenic qualities of the first for pure surf thrills, but that's a very small tweak of the ratio as both records have plenty of either. This group gets surf and I think they get themselves -- pretty capable of harnessing and demonstrating their capabilities.

You can grab this from bandcamp and Double Crown. They're hoping they might get it on vinyl at some point, but there aren't active plans for that to happen from what I understand.


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