Surfer Blood – Astrocoast
The cool scent of salt washed ashore doesn’t faze the warmth, as a lazy breeze barely brushes by me, and the hot sun paints me a healthier colour with its rays. Ah, I can almost feel the blissful air of simplicity and carelessness that blows so assuredly in the Caribbean, but an icy gust reminds me I’m in Toronto – if hell was cold, I’m sure it would be something like this. But every time I spin Surfer Blood’s Astrocoast, the memories come flooding back to me, and it makes me a bit less bitter.
I mean, there’s just something so catching about a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, musically, yet still manages to move one in some way. Driven by 80s-drenched Beach Boys’ surf rock and the occasional hint of The Sonics’ garage rock, there’s just an unrelenting, youthful energy that carries Surfer Blood’s music; you could call it uplifting, but the bottom line is it gives them a presence seldom seen in modern music. “Floating Vibes” opens Astrocoast with a steady, assuring post-punk progression, riddled with bright, easy melodies. But despite the cheerful nature of the band’s music, it is highly reminiscent of The Smiths, in this sense, as the lyrics reveal their darker side.
“If you’re movin’ out to the west
then you’d better learn how to surf
the tide will break in on itself
there are no ghosts to exhume or unearth”
One of the album’s highlights is “Swim” – an intense, gritty beast of a song that serves as the best instance of the garage rock side of Surfer Blood’s sound. Personally, I expected more of the album to follow the heavy side of their sound, but it takes a considerable turn after “Twin Peaks”. Another highlight, “Harmonix”, takes more of a glance back at the 80s, musically, but more in a sense of its revival – kind of like Turn On the Bright Lights-era Interpol. It’s also the only song that really delves into shoegaze territory, which is a shame since they do it well.
Now it isn’t something I would penalize the band for, but as I mentioned, the album takes a slightly different turn after “Twin Peaks”; it’s a slight turn, but nevertheless, significant. A lot of Astrocoast’s slower or much tamer tracks come into play here, and frankly, despite the quality of songs like “Anchorage” and “Catholic Pagans”, the album as a whole starts to get a bit uninteresting. The blend between surf, 80s, and garage rock, that made the first half so profound and unique, seems to lose some of its presence in this second half, as it starts to lean more towards its 80s influences than anything else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but songs like “Floating Vibes” and “Swim” had them doing something quite new with their sound; there are enough bands reviving the 80s these days, as there were a few years ago with the 60s.
Nonetheless, this is an album to be heard and enjoyed, over and over again. Hell, if we can’t bask in sunshine in this hellhole of a season, we may as well do what we can to feel like we’re in some sort of paradise – especially since you’re probably bored of listening to Surfin’ USA, for the hundredth time.