The pungent whiff of major label meddling accompanies the release of sophomore effort Pythons by Floridian four piece Surfer Blood. Their debut album Astro Coast had a youthfulness and vitality that more than compensated for its lack of originality. The band scored a minor radio hit with the song 'Swim' and naturally enough the major labels began to hover. Signed to Warner Brothers in 2012, it would seem that someone had the bright idea that what the music world needs now more than anything is the new Weezer. We don't. Honestly.
Enlisting the services of former Pixies producer Gil Norton might have seemed like a prudent move at the time but Pythons is an album that has been honed and polished to a state of near lifelessness; indie guitar rock by numbers.
It is not that Pythons is a bad record but it is a disappointing one. That little spark of something that was present on their debut has been replaced by competent, catchy guitar tunes that seem like they dropped straight off some College Rock assembly line. 'Demon Dance' starts the album on a promising note but second track 'Gravity' apes the college Rock of Weezer/Fountains of Wayne a little too closely. 'Weird Shapes' surfs in on a wave of nostalgia before degenerating into standard indie Rock fare.
'I Was Wrong' and particularly 'Slow Six' deploy some very Pixies-like guitars in an attempt to give these songs something that doesn't shriek 'we are the new Weezer' but the disappointing reality is that Surfer Blood have traded in the things that made them unique for a shot at the big leagues.
This could play out a number of ways – Surfer Blood could get lucky, score a major alternative hit and find themselves shooting videos with Hugh Hefner in the Playboy Mansion wearing the smug look of newly minted indie rock royalty. Or they could end up unloved and unwanted, discarded by the major label machine if they fail to shift 'product' and meet quarterly sales targets.
Pythons is a disappointingly bland and bloodless follow-up to Astro Coast, proof that the theory of the difficult second album is not without some foundation.
Review by Paul Page | Two Point Five Stars