Surfer Blood - 1000 Palms - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Surfer Blood - 1000 Palms

by James Weiskittel Rating:5.5 Release Date:2015-05-16

After the release of their critically acclaimed debut Astro Coast, Surfer Blood seemed to be a lock for indie-rock stardom. Another solid release (the Tarot Classics EP) and a tour with Pixies (royalty in their own right) further cemented the sense of cultural inevitability surrounding the Florida band. But almost as quickly as it began, the bands ‘buzz’ began to unravel as poorly timed tabloid-esque allegations seemingly rendered the band’s follow-up album, Pythons, pretty much dead on arrival.


And so, Surfer Blood are now looking for a second chance as they get ready to release their third album, 1000 Palms, an effort that they hope will propel them back to the forefront of an indie-rock scene they once seemed positioned to dominate. A self-produced affair, 1000 Palms is by and large a sonic success, eschewing much of the overtly commercial slick that blanketed Pythons while retaining the punch and clarity that those songs deserve. Unfortunately, it’s the songs that really matter when it comes to any band’s new record, and while the first half of 1000 Palms would have been a solid release in and of itself, the album quickly begins to lose steam throughout its second half.


1000 Palms begins strongly enough with a familiar sounding ruckus in ‘Grand Inquisitor’, a song the shifts seamlessly between tempos and instantly recalls the frenetic sound of their debut.  But where songs like ‘Feast/Famine’ and ‘Point Of No Return’ are the sort of upbeat indie rock where Surfer Blood really shines, almost the entire album meanders in this territory, rarely deviating from the 'paint-by-numbers' arrangements that hindered much of Pythons.  The shimmering guitars and stoic backbeat of ’Dorian’ serves as one of the albums later highlights (and few hints of what this band is really capable of) while the stripped down album closer ’NW Passage’ is 1000 Palms only real surprise.


It’s safe to say that every band eventually encounters peaks and valleys along the way, and in light of the recent cancer diagnosis (and subsequent departure) of founding member, guitarist Thomas Fekete, one could argue that Surfer Blood has endured more than their fair share of real life turmoil in recent years.  So while1000 Palms mostly plays it safe and tends to err on the side of caution, it is difficult to blame Surfer Blood for treading artistic water while waiting for the skies to clear.  Let's just hope that they don't wait too long.

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