20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast by JohnCassillo

Surfer Blood's debut is a surprisingly sharp and diverse endeavor

PREVIEW: VISIT Surfer Blood’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

It ends up that all-world Gators quarterback Tim Tebow may not be the most interesting thing to come out of the University of Florida in 2010. Surfer Blood, who also perfected their own craft at U of F, have one of the early, most anticipated debuts of the year. Their initial effort, Astro Coast, is ambitious, catchy and youthful– not necessarily atypical of a band out of college, but nonetheless, there’s something still inherently different about Surfer Blood.

Taking on a similar task to that which Wavves attacked so aptly last year, Surfer Blood combines aspects of noise, surf rock and indie to make extremely catchy and infectious pop music. Unlike Wavves however, Surfer Blood removes many of the lo-fi aspects, and instead inserts heavy, coherent pop riffs. At times, they do indeed tread through some of the same self-induced muck. But somehow, Surfer Blood ends up coming out of it looking cleaner and more polished than many of the similar, yet more DIY acts of today.

First single “Swim” is a destructive, yet coherent force to be reckoned with as the album’s second track. Mixing together the best aspects of old Weezer and The Shins’ earlier material (notice the vocal similarities to The ShinsJames Mercer, by the way), Surfer Blood then drags the combination through a quagmire of intensity and sound. The results are startlingly fun, with surprising sing-along potential — probably the most unexpected aspect of the effort as a whole.

When they’re not borrowing from the aforementioned artists, Surfer Blood is either reapplying the fundamentals of 90s alternative rock, or making lively tropical jams. Songs like “Fast Jabroni” approach listeners with a layered blend of punk and 90s grunge effects that erect walls of overwhelming sound not easily taken down. Meanwhile, tracks like “Take It Easy” allow the listener to relax, while at the same time kept interested by the intensity interspersed with beach-y, spacious instrumentation.

What Surfer Blood accomplishes best on their debut Astro Coast is their blatant refusal to be pigeonholed, along with an inspiring embrace of multiple music styles. This versatility plays a vital role in the album’s ability to both display their talents, and give the album the sonic high points needed for repeated listening. Surfer Blood is fearless, and spot on in its execution here — a rarity for debuts, but ever present here nonetheless.

— John Cassillo

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