REVIEW: Surrogate – ‘Post-Heroic’


Artist: Surrogate
Album: Post-Heroic
Genre: Indie rock
Label: Independent

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought on making a rock record. Some artists prefer the quick and dirty method of setting up in a room and just playing. They thrive on the subtle imperfections and raw emotion of high speed, high pressure recording sessions, and many believe that albums made under those conditions give the best reflection of a band’s live show. Others opt for the more relaxed route of spending weeks, months, or even years in the studio, giving each song the time and attention it deserves. There are pros and cons to each side, from the well-received m b v to the decade-long joke of Chinese Democracy, and the irrefutable charm of Four Minute Mile versus the average sloppy punk record – and very few bands are able to get the best of both worlds.

Surrogate are one of those very few. Two years in the making, the Chico, California quartet’s latest full-length, Post-Heroic, manages to combine the compositional detail of a long-term recording project with the passionate recklessness and lo-fi tone of a garage band.

It’s readily apparent in the songs on Post-Heroic that Surrogate has been at this for a while. The Tooth and Nail Records alumni seem completely comfortable in a mid-tempo sea of fuzzy guitars and tight, compressed bass lines, and the record’s opening track, “Blank Page,” is a shining example of how well they pull it off. The verses are simple and restrained, providing ample space for vocalist Christopher Keene to carry the song into its explosive ending. The final minute of the song is heavy in a shoegaze-on-steroids kind of way, with layers upon layers of guitars and keyboards washing over the slow, deliberate crash of cymbals and kick drum. Like Surrogate’s previous releases, Post-Heroic was self-produced, and parts like this show just how well they know their own sound. The dense production style is the perfect complement to their brand of heavy indie rock, and it helps the songs come across just like I imagine they would in a live setting: Full, melodic, and very, very loud.

On the whole, Post-Heroic doesn’t stray too far from that formula, but it does reward repeated listens with a slew of eclectic auxiliary instruments that sit just below the surface of each song. A banjo, for instance, carries the chorus of the title track, and the catchy, Sherwood-esque “Lovers” features bells and a neat slide guitar part. A trumpet even makes an appearance on the album’s energetic high point, “Crimes.” While subtle, these little touches are proof of the time spent in the studio, and they give each song its own individual flair, which goes a long way towards keeping the record interesting throughout.

There is very little on Post-Heroic that doesn’t work. Even “Belongings,” which at first feels off-kilter and disorienting, finds its footing as soon as the chorus kicks in. In fact, my only issue with the album is that it fails to stick with me when I’m not listening to it. It’s always a pleasant listen when I have it on, but it doesn’t linger in my head and beg me to spin it again afterwards. That’s not to say it’s a bad record in any way, simply that that it lacks the magnetism of its sonic cousins, such as The Get Up Kids’ On a Wire and The Shins’ Oh, Inverted World.

On the lush, ethereal closing track, “Accolades,” Keene delivers the album’s best lyric: “There comes a time when everyone has to die. Some authors do with every book that they write.” It’s a fitting idea with which to end Post-Heroic because these songs do benefit so much from Surrogate’s long, immersive creative process. I firmly believe that anything an artist pours that much heart and work into deserves a listen, and despite its few faults, Post-Heroic is no exception.

Score: 7/10

Review written by: Troy Sennett — Follow him on Twitter

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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