Review: Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics EP (2011)
What comes to mind when you read the name “Surfer Blood?” Contrast comes to mine. Surfing evokes carefree pleasantries in my mind, while blood implies passion and life with a sense of brooding. This might give you an idea of what to expect when listening to the alternative punk style that defines Surfer Blood.
Musically speaking, the band could be described as instrumentals of The Gaslight Anthem meshed with the vocals of Phoenix. This is especially prominent in the cheery, ironically titled first track “I’m Not Ready.” This track rolls along with just enough cheer to counter the up and down lyrics. This might be the most Phoenix-esque track on the record. “Miranda” follows, a track that reminds me sonically of The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound.” It is fun to listen to, and has its share of soaring melodies but ultimately is not that memorable.
Things look up in the second half of the EP (that is, the other two tracks). ”Voyager Reprise” is as spacey as the title implies (whether you are thinking of the satellites or the Star Trek series) although I am not sure what the song is a reprise of. At first I am inclined to think of a cliche movie score during the song’s drawn out intro, but I find myself liking it later on. The vocals are not really the strong point of the song, but they are not horrible either. The final cut, “Drinking Problem,” contrasts sonically with the topical content of the lyrics, much like the first track. This song carries a new wave-like feel throughout, and at the same time seems to be emulating a Foster the People sound. Again, it’s enjoyable but does not quite do enough to build its own identity.
Tarot Classics ultimately lives up to its name; the EP recalls familiar sounds while attempting to look ahead to the future. The downside is that with such a short record trying to accomplish so many different things, the record never really establishes an identity. With the success of their first record and the single “Swim,” I’m not sure why the next step in this band’s career was a short EP. Despite the shortcomings of this release, it’s an enjoyable listen that would do well on car radios everywhere. Furthermore, the styles the band explores demonstrates an exploratory attitude (far better than a content-with-the-status-quo attitude) which will likely carry them to new heights down the road.