Record review: Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics (2012, EP)

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Surfer Blood main man John Paul Pitts recently claimed he unwittingly became part of the lo-fi movement by virtue of his band recording their debut album on less-than-adequate equipment in his apartment. Clearly keen to avoid a repeat of releasing something of such perceived low quality, Surfer Blood’s second release Tarot Classics immediately shows itself to be a much crisper recording. In doing so, however, Pitts has changed Surfer Blood’s sound, dragged it kicking and screaming into high fidelity, and risked alienating some of the fledgling band’s fans.

A modest release at only 4 songs and 15 minutes long, plus two remixes, Tarot Classics hints at potential Smiths-cum-Weezer indie glory, but following a recent tour in support of the latter, Pitts should be more keenly aware of the importance of a pop hook to keep his songs memorable. The problem with this EP is, while the songs are enjoyable on first listen; they are too easily forgotten.

Opener ‘I’m Not Ready’ picks up where debut album Astro Coast left off. “I’m not ready to look the other way” sings Pitts, over a deceptively-intricate guitar line.

The pace is upped on first single ‘Miranda’, its chugging guitar powering the song along, with Pitts doing his best Morrissey impression with a lyric that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Weezer album circa 1995.

‘Voyager Reprise’ slows the tempo down, its piano opening hinting at something epic, punctured by Pitts’ somewhat morose vocal, again with distinct hints of the Smiths. A stylish synth break divides the song in two before a Strokes-esque guitar riff finishes the lengthiest track on offer at 4 ½ minutes.

Closer ‘Drinking Problem’ is Tarot Classics’ highlight, and possibly the least characteristic song yet recorded by the band. Pitts’ increasingly-assured tenor sings “at least I know who my friends are,” over a simple bass/drum riff, with excellent interweaving guitar work filling out the song.

Ultimately, Tarot Classics is a fun and welcome addition to any existing Surfer Blood fan’s catalogue, even if it is unlikely to win over any new fans. Here’s hoping they can make their next full-length release as hot as their native Florida. (Kanine Records)

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