Surfer Blood’s sophomore album commences with “Demon Dance,” a rattling exorcism of paint-peeling classic-rock crunch, with frontman John Paul Pitts baring his blackest soul: “The hounds of hell need love and care,” he sings in his prettiest tenor, “The hounds need organs and limbs to tear.” Brooding introspection seems appropriate: In 2010, Pitts was arrested on domestic assault charges (which were eventually dropped), leading to a tabloid-style media backlash and an uncertain future for his once-buzzworthy band.
There are glimpses of that tortured backstory littered throughout Python‘s lyrics — but the music (produced by rock legend Gil Norton) is mostly slick and celebratory, adding an arena-sized scope to Surfer Blood’s surfy indie-rock palette. “Weird Shapes” is a mega-watt swirl of nerd-rock riffs, conjuring an alternate universe where current-day Weezer didn’t suck; “Squeezing Blood” is a psychedelic ode to new beginnings, Pitts advising to “Wash away the ashes of today” over creamy, harmonized guitars and Tyler Schwarz’s colossal kit.
It isn’t exactly easy to root for Surfer Blood anymore: They’re a major-label band with a blemished track record — no longer the scrappy college kids who recorded Astro Coast, their underdog debut. But Pythons is a crucial reminder of the distance between art and artist. It’s escapist therapy bundled in three-minute blasts of sunshine, and it signals a rebirth — at least sonically — for a band that could sorely use one.