Nearly five years after the arrest of singer John Paul Pitts and only one year after the tragic passing of guitarist Thomas Fekete from cancer, Surfer Blood have released their fourth album, entitled Snowdonia. Quite why a band from Florida have decided to name their album after a region/national park in north Wales is beyond us, but there’s probably a very good reason for it. Somewhere.
Snowdonia is, charitably, not the most exciting of listens. Sonically it sounds like somewhere between The Beatles and Weezer and however you feel about those two bands you couldn’t exactly call either of their sounds “current”. The emotionally viable ‘Six Flags In F or G‘ written about the aforementioned Thomas Fekete or ‘Taking Care Of Eddy‘ which references the great-uncle of John Paul Pitts’ girlfriend are clear stand-out tracks on the album, although ‘Carrier Pigeon‘ (which on a similarly cheerful note is about Pitts’ mother being diagnosed with cancer) is also deserving of an appreciative nod. The lyrical intensity is there, although occasionally veiled by needless cryptic and mystical metaphors.
The album is also about as alternative as daytime television and with about as many recurring themes. The semi-tonal main riff of ‘Six Flags…‘ is about the only time Surfer Blood show any kind of teeth, and even then the riff repeats so much that it starts to sound like someone’s edgy car alarm going off at six in the morning. There is, obviously, nothing wrong with not being incredibly heavy, but even bands like The Cure or T-Rex (to pick two completely arbitrary examples) feel like they’re living inside the music, but Surfer Blood feel more like they’re just sitting on top of it looking at their own reflections.
Snowdonia, both the album and the eight-minute title track, share two very similar key problems: they both seem to exist in time without really travelling anywhere at all, and both have about as much bite as a dead tree.