It’s disconcerting how much Surfer Blood’s lead singer John Paul Pitt looks like a juvenile Jimmy Carr. The sight of him jumping backwards from the drum kit and waggling his head in the standard ‘sexy front man’ pose is so unintentionally comical and you wonder if later he’ll crack a few one-liners about lady bits and Kerry Katona.
Wholesome pudding-boy looks and “Family Ties” style knitwear aside, Surfer Blood are a beleaguered bunch. They seem to be weighed down by a sense of unfulfilled potential despite having only released their debut album a mere four months ago, such is the fickle nature of today’s cool spotting youngsters who were off to source the next hot-new-thing before the band had even finished the album artwork. This relegated status is reflected in a crowd that would have made Whelan’s cosy but makes the size-able Academy look positively cavernous with pockets of empty spaces and ample room to breathe.
However the band don’t seem to let this effect their performance from the jaunty nature in which they take the stage they seem at ease with the ludicrousness of it all; pulling faux-fierce faces at each other, cadging drinks from the front row and throwing themselves about with gleeful abandon, they are intent on giving the assembled crowd a fun filled Friday night.
Launching into the breezy ‘Floating Vibes’ its muddy ringing riffs coupled with hand-claps and sweet lyrics about “Goin’ surfin” their grunge-Cricket’s sound leaves you yearning for balmy Summer evenings . This is where Surfer Blood play to their strengths.
They pack a punch with their fuzzy off-kilter guitar mixed with unabashed pop melodies almost like a strange hybrid, a Vampire Collective on the catchy, skittish ‘Take it Easy’ and the molasses heavy bass line on the nineties-tastic ‘Twin Peaks’. Sadly these moments are all too rare in a performance that is laden with misguided, misjudged, bloated, wanky guitar work-outs like ‘Slow Jabroni’ where all playfulness is lost and you begin to remember that the ’90s didn’t really have all the best bands… This soul-sucking vortex is broken up by a straight-no-frills but fun all the same, cover of Weezer’s ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ tipping a nod to their influences like the polite young men they are.
All this messing about and meandering leaves the crowd baying for only one thing, the huge thundering force we’re all here to witness and when it comes it still possesses the velocity it had upon its first play like a brick being pounded into the back of your brain at high speed. A dance between delicate guitar plucking and a merciless mighty riff with vocals sounding like they’d been sung in a particularly draughty corridor, -Swim’ destroys all in its wake. Its relentlessness jolts every inch of the venue into alertness it pushes your synapse to sensory overload hitting you with wave after wave of that grinding almost punishing guitar wall.
By the time we’ve all been sucked into singing the punchy ‘Oh-oh-oh’ refrain and Mr. Pitt has sunk to his knees to screech the final syllable it’s over leaving you exhausted but wishing that this was the beginning of something more rather than the glorious finale.
Photos by Sean Conroy.