Record review: Surfer Blood – Pythons (2013, LP)

Let’s get this straight from the start: I’m a BIG fan of Surfer Blood. For me, they fill a hole that exists somewhere between when Weezer stopped being the coolest indie band around, The Strokes got lazy with their output, and the Pavement reunion died on its arse with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. The Florida quartet have only been knocking around since 2009, but in that time they have put out an outstanding debut album in Astro Coast in 2010, and a short but solid EP in 2011’s Tarot Classics.

Frontman John-Paul Pitts 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. Keen to avoid being pigeon-holed as part of a movement he felt no connection to, Pitts made sure Tarot Classics was as crisp a recording as they come. Satisfyingly, Pythons has elements of both these records; although recording was crammed into a hectic eight-week period, leaving no room for experimentation, but with plenty of guitars lathered over everything the band does.

With ten tracks of around three minutes each, this could be the most perfectly-rounded guitar pop record of recent months. Opener and single ‘Demon Dance’ is classic Surfer Blood; all dual guitars, snappy choruses, and pleading lyrics. ‘Gravity’ is more Tarot Classics than Astro Coast, and gets amongst the catchiness with a much greater sense of urgency.

‘I Was Wrong’ sees Pitts in an uncharacteristically brooding mode, channelling his inner Morissey, which is followed by ‘Squeezing Blood’; a possibly dark tale masquerading as a melodic, infectiously upbeat Beach Boys-esque track.

‘Blair Witch’ isn’t as scary as it sounds, being one of the lighter tracks on the album, with Pitts declaring “the more I see love, the more I need love.” ‘Needles and Pins’ isn’t a cover of that song, but is fairly dreary all the same, while final track ‘Prom Song’ could be a talented Wheatus for the twenty-first century, and a nice way to finish the album.

Surfer Blood have always flown a bit under the radar, but if there’s at least one big single on this album, it should be enough to see them do well, although Surfer Blood don’t seem to be the type of band who would be comfortable getting “big”.

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