Music Reviews
Astro Coast

Surfer Blood Astro Coast

(Kanine Records) Rating - 6/10

Since the Feelies provided a new interpretation of the term geek rock in the late 70’s, it was destined to change the way we listen to unconventional pop. Whether it led to brainy but skilled rock n’ roll, such a term has been integral to propel immediate power pop chords and sweater shifting poses. Of course, such a sound has gone through so much change throughout the years that the seeds that it planted have lead to an ever-increasing cornucopia of subgenres.

Surfer Blood, a Floridian band very much reincarnated from the New Jersey foursome, follows that reckless spirit with improvisational, yet wholly constructed songwriting. Thirty years later, the spirit of Surfer Blood insists in immediate pleasures; you don’t listen to these stories about bands perfecting a sound for years anymore. Astro Coast sounds far from rushed, but it certainly is a substandard effort for a band that is undoubtedly aware of handing over a tribute to their influences. Savor yourself with Swim (To Reach the End), a nifty hodgepodge of power riffage that wouldn’t sound out of place in The Cars’ self titled album. Or how about Neighbour Riffs, a two-note instrumental that picks up the speed and doesn’t let go, showing John Paul Pitts swift coordination skills as he rips through the guitar without looking back. Anchorage, a six minute flush of dissonance and fuzzed out reverb, demonstrates the young band at their finest, finally loosening up to some pattern-ized exchanges, discovering that melody will come to them if they start building up their own distinctiveness.

Then again, half of Astro Coast is centered on a surf rock aesthetic, one that is charming but far overused and, quite frankly, not as simple as they make it out to be. Album closer Catholic Pagans in the main offender, a mild pop tune that can’t mask away the Mercer-like vocals or the guitar/harmonizing exchanges. It’s also evident in Fast Jamboree, a variation of an early 60’s Beach Boys song - take your pick - arranged with quirky keyboard touches and yet another linear power chord finale. When they’re not petting the sharks off shore, they evoke Pixie-like imagery and tomfoolery (Twin Peaks), building to spill with Floating Vibes, and attempting some Afro pop eccentrics with Take it Easy. As you can see, flattery is definitely in the agenda.

Astro Coast is like playing a game of six degrees of separation with your favorite bands. While it provokes some unpredictable moments, it’s heartbreaking to listen to such tuneful moments of inspiration buried beneath towering stacks of old debris, and not the vintage kind. What Surfer Blood forgot in their homage to their heroes is that all of them share one thing in common: they have all pulled off at least one perfectly centered album that actually had a sense of equivalence. Besides, encompassing four decades in forty minutes is overwhelmingly imperious, experience or no experience. To point contradiction, while Surfer Blood has a strong flair for guitar layering and garage band histrionics, they skim through middling riffs and unimposing reverb without much effort. Next time, more crazy rhythms please.