In Surfer Blood’s short lifespan, they’ve become a polarizing band, one whose 12 appearances at CMJ this past fall got lots of people talking, either hailing them as The Band to Watch in 2010 or calling bullshit and bemoaning the current beach-band surge when, in actuality, they’re harmless fun—too inconsequential just 10 songs into their career to have any considerable impact on things. But, damn, can these kids write a hook.
“Swim” promises to be one of the year’s most spot-on pop anthems, a rollercoaster ride through arena-sized rallying calls awash in reverb, monster-sized drumming, and a fevered undercurrent that could soundtrack a Mountain Dew commercial. It’s a feat that shouldn’t be downplayed, given that they originally named their band Jabroni Sandwich, recorded the bulk of their album in a dorm room, and have a lead singer whose man-boy bark sounds like a 15-year-old trying to get into a bar by dropping his voice a few notches. In other words, they’re young. The fingerprints of coming-of-age in the 90s are all over Astro Coast (Weezer’s guitar-driven melodies, Pavement’s recklessness), but their age translates into a peculiar naiveté that elevates the album, rather than hindering it. Songs never feel forced or sneaky, despite essentially being culminated masses of past and present music trends. From the first pummeling riff on opener “Floating Vibes,” Surfer Blood unabashedly goes in for the kill, willing listeners into enjoying themselves through incessant, front-and-center hooks and resounding conviction in how they sing and play.
Though the album’s second half ventures into more experimental territory, playing around with reverb and distortion to varying success, nothing is as memorable as the frat-tastic pop songs. So maybe Surfer Blood’s not going to change the face of music and maybe the West Palm Beach vibe is teetering on overkill, but it’s not worth arguing about whether Astro Coast is uninspired. Not when it’s this enjoyable of a listen and not meant to be anything else.