Surfer Blood - Pythons 12 inch
"Apologies, meet apologies," Surfer Blood's John Paul Pitts sings on "Demon Dance", the lead-off track from his band's second LP, Pythons. Pitts spends most of Pythons pleading, bargaining, rationalizing, trying to make some sense of an increasingly dire situation in any way he can. There's a longstanding tendency in pop music to read too much autobiography into lyrics. In Pythons' case, this kind of conflation's all but unavoidable; just before it was recorded, an altercation with his then-girlfriend lead to Pitts' arrest for domestic battery. Ultimately, no charges were filed, but as Pitts told Pitchfork, that same tumultuous relationship inspired many of Pythons' lyrics. Even before you hear one note, you may feel conflicted about it, and rightfully so. Truth be told, Pythons seem to feel pretty conflicted about itself: hooky, Weezer-ish guitar pop offset by desperate, discomfiting lyrics, fleeting hopes of reconciliation quickly dashed by heavy-hearted resignation.
Produced by Gil Norton (Doolittle, Del Amitri), Pythons is a sleeker affair than 2010's bedroom-born Astro Coast and 2011's knotty Tarot Classics EP. With 10 lean songs in 32 minutes, there's hardly a second to waste, so Pythons largely dispenses with pageantry and heads straight for the stomp box. Instrumentally, Surfer Blood's reared-on-Pavement looseness proves hard to shake even on these no-nonsense melodies; guitars dive-bomb into choruses, hooks turn into group shout-alongs. This more focused approach occasionally causes slight tunnelvision, songs that seem to rise and fall in essentially the same fashion. There are exceptions, of course: "I Was Wrong" dips a toe into grunge, and the waltzy "Needles & Pins" harkens back to the Everly Brothers. But there's a satisfying simplicity in all those clean lines and bright-as-can-be hooks, a gleaming surface to bury the dark stuff under.