It’s easy to look at Coast To Coast with an initial sense of disinterest. After all, being a regional-accented pop-punk band shaded of emo is hardly a standout feat, and with an association to Boston Manor already established, it would be easy to tar this Birmingham mob with the copycat brush and be done. Except there’s more to them than that, with last year’s debut EP Dwell, a short but sweet introduction that was part of an admittedly smaller crop back then than now, but had a lot of heart and character nonetheless.
By comparison, The Length Of A Smile serves to expand on that foundation rather than really move it to anywhere different, but it sees Coast To Coast improve regardless. Yet even with that, what is bound to be their most contentious element is place front and centre, being Keiran Hyland’s vocals. It’s easy to see why they won’t sit well with some; there’s a heavy influence of Lower Than Atlantis’ Mike Duce at his most unrefined, but often with that turned up even more, meaning that at times like on Post Graduation, it can slip into sloppiness.
But while the lack of nuance is unavoidable, Coast To Coast excel in really nailing those bigger emotions in both the lyrics and the instrumentation. The comparisons to Boston Manor in the latter’s case are obvious, but the band manage to do them justice, whether in the driving, dramatic riffs of Geranium or the lonely, echoing guitar of the title track, a dynamic that’s dangerously close to being played out, but that actually works here given the bruised intensity in Hyland’s performance. He really does bleed himself dry on this EP, with his lyrical contributions having that heavy resignation and pathos that makes The Wonder Years so great. And regardless of whether he’s talking about his relationship with his father on Heredity, pouring over wasted university days on Post Graduation or examining his own happiness on Stale, to say that he doesn’t feel every single word here is just impossible.
That’s probably Coast To Coast’s greatest strength, the ability to convey something so powerful from so little. There’s not a line on The Length Of A Smile that doesn’t sting to some degree, and while that well of broader, more generalised emotion is a finite source in terms of actually connecting, Coast To Coast actually do make it work. If they can stretch this sort of power onto a full-length album without diluting it, we could be in for something special.
For fans of: Boston Manor, Lower Than Atlantis, Deaf Havana
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Length Of A Smile’ by Coast To Coast is released on 24th March on Fox Records.