Sunday, 24 January 2010

REVIEW: Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

Floridians Surfer Blood kicked off the year of posts here on H-T-A and, as expected, it hasn't taken too many spins of their debut Astro Coast to validate the hopes many people have for this band.
With so many diverse niches comprising the overall tapestry of indie rock at the turn of the decade, it's intriguing that a group rooted in more straight shooting alternative rock - the fuzzy mid 90's kind, that is - have so captured the imaginations of much of that crowd. Perhaps the last few Weezer albums have wandered into blithely commercial territory one song too often? Whether or not this is the case - and whether or not they had any intention of doing so - Surfer Blood have certainly taken up the baton of pop, hook-heavy  rock so confidently carried on the Blue album. And a little more too, if one takes the time to listen.

Astro Coast kicks off with a killer one-two of just the style anticipated of them, the breezy melodies of Floating Vibes conjuring up images of a sun-drenched beach town and the powerful punch of top 2009 track Swim perfectly balancing the band's ability to drench a song in reverb and still retain the enormous, addictive hooks that make them so appealing to a variety of listeners. Set together, both songs provide the required introduction to the band for anyone that managed to miss the buzz late last year.

MP3: Surfer Blood - Swim

  Taken from the debut album 
Astro Coast, out now

Buy it at Insound!

Take It Easy reverts to a similar style as the opening track, keeping things easy going and bouncing along to a light summery rhythm. Although less immediate than those tracks, it maintains the momentum already set and succeeds in relaxing the ears for the next track Harmonix. A more reflective affair, it provides the point at which Astro Coast digs a bit deeper into its soul and finds some demons to exorcise. As if feeling somewhat emotionally exposed by this catharsis, Neighbour Riffs follows with a short two minute flurry of happy go lucky guitar lines entirely without lyrics.

By Twin Peaks though, the band again find their voice and go about creating an album highlight that melds all that has gone before into one 3:38 gem. The song bounds in on a bright Foo Fighters/Weezer-esque rhythm section and feels bright in tone but the lyrics tell a different story ("Why is everything a chore? / I'm too young to be defeated"). The album is actually littered with relationship laments and confused emotions, this track marking one of the best juxtapositions of this alongside Surfer Blood's more exuberant musicianship.

Further on, the double of Fast.. and Slow Jabroni are true to their titles and provide an ear pricking change of pace, although by the middle of the latter the attention begins to wane as the track descends into an introspective, navel-gazing spiral. Eventually it does shake the funk, however, and recalls that mellow attitude of the opening tracks. Anchorage then covers many bases and gives the guitars an opportunity to wander all across the tones during an elongated jam, before Catholic Pagans closes out Astro Coast with more Brian Wilson vocal harmonies and a final nod to the ever-present Blue album influence.

Without being anything groundbreaking, Surfer Blood have created an album that both delivers on the expectations forged from their influences (big hooks, pop/rock songs worthy of the nebulous 'surf' tag etc) and offers a pleasantly surprising fragile underbelly to boot. The standout catchy songs to accompany Swim do just that, but it's in the more considered emotion of tracks like Harmonix and Twin Peaks that the band let the listener into their world and, in doing so, lend Astro Coast a greater depth.

If forced to choose one song, I still have to plump for the utterly engrossing and immediate stomp of Swim. What I'm happy to find is that there is plenty more on this album to discover, making it a fine way to start the year's purchases for anyone lured in by that excellent track.

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