The sun-soaked harmonies of Surfer Blood have always had a distinctly West Coast vibe to them, and nowhere is that more apparent than on their new album, Pythons. And like the group’s debut, 2010’s Astro Coast, the strength of Pythons lies in the melodies and harmonies, though they are often obscured by cheesy ‘90s guitar squeal or absurd lyrics.
With Pythons, Surfer Blood can now be most definitely placed into the camp of ’90s guitar rock revivalists. And that influence is deeply felt across the record, from the goofy absurdum of repeating “secret charmers, suit of armor” in lead single “Weird Shapes” to the grungy guitar crescendos that mark almost every song on the album. But to their credit, like many late ’90s alternative rockers, Surfer Blood’s pop sense on the album is impeccable, and many of the hooks are well crafted (albeit often lyrically goofy).
The harmonies and subtle slink of “I Was Wrong” easily mark it as the album’s highlight. Singer John Paul Pitts brings his vocals into a falsetto on the verses, and the track brings a much keener melodic sense that really illustrates the melodies as the strength of the record. Though as is indicative of Pythons, as soon as the song makes a strong case for best on the album, there is a distant screaming of the song’s title and this over-the-top touch kills the emotional impact of the song’s mostly stellar lyrics.
Ultimately, Pythons’ weaknesses overcome its successes. Constantly, a good harmony will get mowed down by a bad string of lyrics, or a stellar guitar riff will be punctuated by a goofy chorus. These flaws do not mark Pythons as a complete failure, but rather as a series of great hooks with a lot of wrong turns and missed opportunities.
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