Album review: Surfer Blood – Snowdonia

Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood have made their name through a chirpy blend of indie pop fused with sunny surf rock. But is the latest album as bright as their disposition?…

Surfer Blood haven’t had the best run of it in recent years. Guitarist and lead vocalist John Paul Pitts was arrested for attacking his girlfriend, then faced outcry for never apologising. This followed with the original guitarist Thomas Fekete sadly succumbed to sarcoma, a rare form of cancer and they’ve had to switch out for a new bassist after old hand, Kevin Williams departed the band. To top it off, Pitts also lost his mother to cancer.

In many cases, bands would break under upheaval of this level, I can at least commend Surfer Blood for staying together. However by staying together, you would assume that musically, the band would work through the many traumas and problems they have faced by tackling them with their art. This doesn’t appear to have dampened the band’s sunny attitude and sound, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a positive. The indie-pop tunes they have released so continuously since the band’s conception in 2009 have stayed much the same, which in terms of continuity is fine, but shows very little in terms of maturity and growth, which is once again reflected in this new album, Snowdonia.

The first three songs; Matter of Time, Frozen and Dino Jay are for the most part, interchangeable. There is little to discern them from one another, all following the same trend of slightly distorted guitar, basic drums and reverb-laden vocals trying and failing to emulate Morrissey. All three quite neatly fit the bill of indie, all sounding as though they belong on as a scene transition soundtrack from The Inbetweeners. One of the fills from Dino Jay even sounds like a near direct replica of the guitar riff from Vampire Weekend’s A-Punk, it’s uncanny. The aforementioned song is well meaning, it’s a clear homage to Pink Frost by The Chills, one of the band’s key influences, but it falls massively short of its target.


Snowdonia is the band’s fourth studio album

Six Flags in F or G follows as track 4 and in fairness, it’s a welcome relief. The song is very bluesy, with a rockabilly almost folksy vibe to it and a far cry from the usual attempt at their Floridian surfer rock. It may not be seen as a good thing that the best song on the album is so far from their usual territory, but that doesn’t detract from the fact it’s undeniably good. It’s a pulsing, slightly schizophrenic jam and again, it’s so far from their usual convention and it works. Halfway through the song that starts off almost aggressively it changes into a more balladic tone and leads us into the key song and title track of the album, Snowdonia.

As previously mentioned, the band has gone through some serious issues prior to the recording of this album and in this seven minute long marathon of a track, that ebbs and flows through a softer and melodic tone, you could expect this to be the catharsis the band needs. This would not be the case. Granted there is some emotion to Pitts’ hollowed and sweet tones, but it feels false, thin and unconvincing for a seven-minute long ballad. Lyrics aside however, the song is well-constructed with a tender, slow build up to the peak of the song.

Come down from the mountain however and you’re met with Instant Doppelgangers. The song is honestly bad enough to taint the memory of the previous two songs. Soft lyrics and melody are met with a juvenile and sterile song, replete with some agitating whistling. The band shows a shallow side to themselves with this song in particular. With no emotional weight, and the band all in their mid-30’s or beyond they show the fact they haven’t grown within their genre, remaining on the bubblegum side of pop, unlike many of their idols, such as The Chills and The Pixies.

Skipping past Taking Care of Eddie, a disjointed song with a very confusing addition of sitar fills and the final track is Carrier Pigeon. The song is a standard stoner/surfer rock tune you’d expect playing from a VW Camper on a beach. It’s no bad song by any stretch, but it’s wasted being hidden at the end of the album after a frankly poor set of songs by a rather beige indie band that has nothing new to offer.





Author: Steve, Southgate store