A synthesis of all that’s prevalent in today’s all-conquering US indie-rock invasion.
Chris Parkin 2010
If people still do as Blue Peter used to and plant time capsules in their garden in order to give future generations a glimpse of what life was like in ye good olde days, then Surfer Blood’s debut record is a strong candidate to represent US indie-rock right now. Not because it’s a mind-expanding example of new music, or indeed the best thing we’ve heard this year. But simply because Astro Coast sounds so very like a synthesis of all that’s prevalent in today’s all-conquering US indie-rock invasion.
You’d be cloth-eared not to hear all that’s zeitgeist-y about this Floridian gang’s debut, from the epic, gloaming sweep of The National and ebullient, collegiate Afro-pop of Vampire Weekend to the heroically fuzzed garage-pop of The Soft Pack and the gently buttered-on harmonies of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. But when a band draws on their influences as subconsciously as Surfer Blood do, refracting them through their own youthful frustrations and building hooks so strong they might pull down buildings, there’s nothing wrong with this at all.
Astro Coast certainly proves more compelling than albums by Great Indie Pop hopes Avi Buffalo and The Drums, whose 80s posturing led artist Mark Leckey to say recently that you can almost pinpoint the exact moment they’re copying – “a Tuesday night in November, 1984”. Surfer Blood’s own debut might be awash with nostalgia, reverb and widescreen power-pop but, a few toothless songs aside, this is mostly urgent stuff, driven by John Paul Pitts’ vocals, which flit between doe-eyed Generation X Beach Boys fan and a rubbed-raw thing akin to Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock’s yowl.
The enormous air-punching Swim stands righteously atop the heap, pairing the recorded-in-the-bath fizz of The Thermals with The Walkmen’s strident way with a blustery anthem. Harmonix is an indie torch song in the vein of The National, only not as despondent, while Take It Easy pitches up in a place between Memory Tapes and Vampire Weekend in its tender-hearted fun.
The band describes their sound as “like Andrew WK meets the early Cure,” and there are certainly other references here, such as Pavement and Jimmy Eat World. But just like The Temper Trap’s big-selling debut from 2009, Astro Coast sounds so prescient that Surfer Blood will be riding a wave of popularity for a good few months yet.