jason stives has blood on his surf board …
Surfer Blood, the Florida based quartet who dazzled critics with their 2010 debut Astro Coast and its equally as impressive single “Swim,” haven’t exactly had the easiest road to new music in the past three years. Marred by some unfortunate mainstream press involving the arrest of singer John Paul Pitt in 2012, the band has been taking a lot of care in creating a follow up that differs from their debut and subsequent 2011 EP release Tarrot Classics. While Pitt has claimed innocence to his untimely arrest it still has left a sour taste in the mouths of fans that enjoy their music and loathe domestic battery charges.
Even if Pitt is not the most liked person at the moment, Surfer Blood is still a well liked band. However, their hooky Weezer-esque guitar based music at times suffers because it feels like it has so much to prove to a possible mainstream audience after some of the PR hell the band has been dealing with. This is why Pythons, the band’s long awaited follow up, is more slick, less crunchy, and doesn’t fully accent the qualities that the band displayed before. But still offers a nice helping of catchy, pop rock guitar tunes that satisfies heading into the summer months.
Although there aren’t as many blistering stand outs here in the same vein as “Floating Vibes” or “Swim,” the album does a good job at starting out of the gate with a thumping good number in “Demon Dance.” The imagery is up front with a whiplash drum beat and winding guitar sound as Pitt proclaims “Like a Pentecostal choir on Sunday/I’ll suck the venom from out of your bones.” It’s that sardonic lyricism that blends with the “ooo eee ooo” melody that thumps and runs out first to impress.
After that, “Gravity” ironically brings the initial blast of the album back down to Earth before rattle and humming back into place on “Weird Shapes” with its almost clapping like back beat and Pitt’s nasally vocals screeching at the chorus line. The guitar work doesn’t press on your ear drum with such veracity the way Astro Coast did but the care and overall skill is there. The slow dream like trance of “Needles and Pins” features some calm 6 string picking against its swaying, sing song style, and the damnation of “Slow Six” sounds like a deep cut Pixies track which is fitting considering Gil Norton (who produced that band’s classic Doolittle) is behind the sound board this time around.
It would be hard to believe that this album’s lyrical content wasn’t fueled by the events of the past year and Pit has said in interviews that a lot of this material was inspired from those events; t’s hard not to hear an album full of obvious apologies. As a culture, we have forgiven many an artist for actions they have conducted, but as Pythons is riddled with visions of liars, forgiveness, and sincerity, everything feels like a plea rather than learning from life’s lessons. It almost over shadows the best moments like the aforementioned “Demon Dance” and the quick trigger firing of “Say Yes To Me.” It may be best to divorce yourself of the personal approach to fully enjoy Pythons. This is a very good band with a strong sensibility for how the alternative and pop genres can mix together but it may take another record in a few years to fully see past the now.
Pythons ultimately never measures up as it should providing something appealing but it never gets as gritty and potent as the band’s first record. With some bad press and an overall attempt to be more polished it should have been a solid sophomore effort but it only goes half way there.