With the weather finally warming up in most places, Surfer Blood’s pop-rock second album Pythons is sure to fit in nicely with the shorts and shades. The album is a little more straight forward compared to their 2010 debut, Astro Coast, but still full of the familiar vocal melodies and guitar. Pythons was recorded in eight crazy weeks at EastWest Studio’s with Gil Norton of Pixies fame as co-producer and mixed by Rob Schnapf. Returning with their second full-length album, Surfer Blood are as in love as they ever were with the beatpop, head-bobbing sun kissed, rock ‘n’ roll sound, but with singer John Paul Pitts now conjuring up more disturbing lyrical themes to create the vocal medicine which the musical spoonful of saccharine helps you swallow down.
And What’s It Like?
Lead single ‘Weird Shapes’ is a chuggy number with a dark heart, as Pitt’s vocals seem to tell a tale of self-loathing “The sun’s gonna come. Let it shine on someone else” and the disarming coda “Secret charmer, pseudo harmer…squeamish voyeur, sick destroyer”. There is still a touch of feral-pop to the band’s sound, with its caustic new wave guitar lines against clean cut arpeggios.
Same goes for ‘Blair Witch’, where Tom Morgan’s chords shine like early R.E.M. interweaving vocals and snare hits as Pitts croons “If I can’t taste and get my fill then no-one will” then “I need love” like a Morrissey in training. It’s a track with real pop pedigree, offsetting Pitts’ biting cynicism. This is a record of bitterness, of barely masked regret a lot like early Wezzer.
The best track of Pythons is ‘Slow Six’, a Teenage Fanclub homage. This track is not drenched in self-loathing and bitterness as are some of the others but ‘Slow Six’ is a song of revelling in your own sins. Pitt gives us the best line of the album here, “Now when I’m faced with temptation I move without hesitation… Wanting and acting are one fluid moment for me”. Surfer Blood get to stretch their musical muscles, with the band allowed to finally let their instruments do the talking. Yet because of the timidity of the rest of the record, this now feels like a bit too harsh rather than a band really getting its musical libido going.
The Final Verdict?
Pythons has the tunes but Surfer Blood have grown a new found fear of kicking the pedals on and letting rip. Here’s hoping they’ll get over this phobia and when they do Pythons will really have some bite.