Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Review: Surfer Blood, Pythons

The release date for this album could not have been better.   Surfer Blood is a quintessentially summer band & Pythons fits this perfectly.  The album is chock-full of catchy, up-beat songs and seems a bit like a continuation of Astro Coast, rather than a progression from it.  I generally don’t focus much on the flow of the album, unless it seems off, but I think they’ve managed it very well here.  When working with nearly all up-beat songs like this, it could easily just sound like a band of cheerleaders.  However, they provide two breaks with “I Was Wrong” and “Needles and Pins”, which help to meld one song into the next and were placed at just the right moment in the album.  The sound is good, the flow is good… but there’s just something about Surfer Blood that will always be average!

That being said, I don’t even know what it is that makes them so average.  I couldn’t tell you that they just need to change this or tweek that.  They’re just one of those bands that will never be described as great because they can’t compare to some of the other music that’s out there today.  Sometimes, when I find a new band or a new album that I really like I tend to act a little hyperbolic.  I’ll listen to them, and only them, for a week or two and subsequently announce that they are the greatest band ever.  But then I revisit some of the classics that I like, such as Radiohead or the Clash or some of my favorite modern bands like She & Him or Local Natives that I had momentarily ignored.  When I return to this band that I had just praised, I suddenly say that they’re just okay!  These comparisons aren’t entirely fair, as the bands I’ve just mentioned are completely different to Surfer Blood, I can’t help but do it.  I guess it’s easy to get caught up in momentum with something new like that, be it an album or a tv show or some must-have shoes.  Regardless, this is the reaction that I’ve seen a lot of people have to Surfer Blood and this is why I say that they’ll always be just okay.  They will never be that classic band that you consistently revisit.

Yet, for the summer season that we’re technically in (I say technically as we’re still wearing winter coats in London!) this album is going to be a nice addition.  The album’s opening song, “Demon Dance”, as well as “Weird Shapes” both sound like punchy progressions from the previous album, Astro Coast.  These, along with “Prom Song”, are the standouts from this album for me. They’re all easy listens and don’t feel overdone.  Even though I like these songs, it bothers me that “Weird Shapes” and “Demon Dance” were the promotional singles that were released prior to the album.  It’s like when the only good parts of a movie are in the trailer, causing you to feel robbed when you pay £8.50 to see 3 funny minutes, surrounded by 87 minutes of crap.  Similarly, these are clearly the best songs on the album, making me feel a little jipped that the rest doesn’t match up.

This album also showcases a new component to Surfer Blood’s sound: emo screaming.  Okay, that’s an overstatement – it’s sort of a pop version of emo screaming.  While I do like the unpredictability of this, I wouldn’t say that it adds anything to the songs.  Maybe this is because it clearly doesn’t match the tone of the band, but I think it’s mostly because it’s used so sparingly throughout the record that it does nothing but throw you off.

Overall, I feel a little biased while reviewing this album (as I’m sure any other reviewers will also feel).  Last year, frontman John Paul Pitts was arrested for domestic battery.  While all charges were dropped, this does not make me want to support the band and I was kind of hoping that this album would suck.

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