Astro Coast, the debut from West Palm Beach, Fla., quintet Surfer Blood, stitches together the big hooks of party rock, a bit of '80s synth, surf-inflected indie rock and some dance-y Brit-pop.
The band's exuberance makes this an exciting and inviting record, but beyond the great first impression, Astro Coast begins to feel flat, with vocals buried under an over-reliance on production effects and a nagging lack of distinction. The band's most creative aspects are its greatest strengths—terrific guitar melodies throughout, a strong sense of when to lift an already surging song even higher, and a renewed wall-of-noise sensibility.
However, listeners are served too many moments of glossy familiarity to the band's influences, and in the most direct comparisons (a weaker Weezer, a softer Built to Spill), Surfer Blood loses out the most.
On the teenage-love tale "Twin Peaks," John Paul Pitts sings, "I know things could be different if I were older and less afraid." That's a tender admission in the context of the song, but it's a statement more revealing of Surfer Blood overall: The youthful band is brimming with talent, but will creativity follow?
Still, Astro Coast has several standout tracks, starting with lead single "Swim" (catchy, with a power-chord riff that recalls Pat Benatar) and opener "Floating Vibes." The fuzzier, dreamy "Anchorage" and instrumental "Neighbour Riffs" are excellent as well.
Ultimately, Astro Coast is a debut that holds more promise than achievement; a second album tempered by confidence and experience from this buzz band is an alluring notion.