Where’s the surf? Where’s the Blood?
In the wake of 2009’s auspicious single “Swim,” Surfer Blood has performed at major music festivals like Austin’s South by Southwest, toured with The Pixies, been all over the radio and have even been the focus of celebrity tabloids— overall, a pretty decent resume for a bunch of guys still in their 20s. So, it is no surprise that fans and critics alike have been anxiously awaiting the band’s follow up to 2010’s Astro Coast. Well, here it is: Pythons is a 10-song LP of mostly short pop-rock tracks that dangle hook after hook, but are severely lacking the any memorable bite. They’ve ditched the lo-fi sound of Astro Coast and sold their souls to polished, overproduced pop.
The majority of the tracks, like the opener, “Demon Dance” and the subsequent “Gravity,” sound like childish versions of a Springsteen, Nick Lowe and Warning–era Green Day collaboration with a 20-year old Ringo Starr manning the drum kit (not a compliment). Both songs start with catchy verses that swell into predictable and forgettable choruses. Halfway through the album, specifically, “Squeezing Blood,” it becomes apparent that these guys are really attempting to channel—if not just blatantly rip off—The Smiths, which is no easy task. Surfer Blood harnesses some of the textures and melodies of this iconic band, but they fall short of Morrissey’s unique vocal ability and lyrical wit, and Johnny Marr’s enchanting guitar work.
The highlight of the album is the second to last track, “Slow Six,” which has verses that feel like swaying palm trees in the evening, until the groove is interrupted by another generic and truly unnecessary chorus (are these guys trying to make every track a single?) but then redeeming itself with a heavy dynamic outro reminiscent of The Beatles “She’s So Heavy” that sadly demonstrates what the band is capable of with the rest of the album demonstrating to what the band is limiting itself. Overall, Pythons need less hooks, more bite.