Tweeness has always brought me out in hives. I don’t do novelty ties. “You’ve not got to be mad to work here but it helps” signs make me retch. Chuck in wilful ramshackleness from a musical perspective and I’m not a happy boy.
But bear with me.
I was a little perturbed when the March Rough Trade Album of the Month arrived on my doorstep. Superorganism are getting a great deal of press at the moment. The band are only just over a year old and are an international affair with members from the UK, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The ages diverse with ages ranging from seventeen to thirty-two and it very much a gender diverse group too.
So far, so 2018.
Their image though looks a wee bit kooky. The website appears to have been designed on a Commodore 64. Font sizes are wilfully mixed. It sounds trivial but it sets a preconception for the band – a little bit try-hard, a little too whacky.
As ever though, don’t judge a book by the cover.
The first track up “It’s So Good”, an early single which appeared on Rough Trade’s 2017 Counter Culture CD roundup. Ultra catchy with a slowed down vocal sample of personal development guru Tony Robbins, it could be a car crash but it isn’t. There is enough melody to pull it along plus the performance is more competent than the band’s appearance would have you expect.
I’ve seen a few reviews comparing them with the Avalanches. I’ve never got the Avalanches which, given my misgivings about kookiness, won’t be a surprise. Their albums were too crammed with ideas. You never got chance to enjoy what you were listening too before the next musical idea came along. It was like listening to a group who suffered from ADHD.
Superorganism don’t sound like that. The songs are concise with the whole album being over in just over 33 minutes. It is a refreshing blast. Nothing outstays its welcome but the songs are well developed, not too sketchy or demolike. The band that Superorganism brings to mind is Deptford’s finest and sadly dormant The Shortwave Set. They could take an outwardly eclectic approach but turn it something more sophisticated. Superorganism appear to have a similar knack.
This could come from the way that the group operate. Whilst they are a multinational band, 7 of the 8 members live together in East London, creating music and art together. Ideas are exchanged and developed. This could lead to an indulgent musical mess but the band appear to be savvy enough to trim down the fat and deliver something that is engaging and listenable.
The samples aren’t intrusive and add to the songs. The pace is relentlessly upbeat which over a short LP works well. “Everybody Wants To Be Famous” is a critique of 21st Century obsessions. “Reflections On The Screen” is gorgeous, with a touch of shoe-gazing beauty.
How sustainable will the kookiness be? Is it East London Hipster overload? Are they necessarily playing all of the instruments and performing the vocals live?
For the moment, let’s leave those questions to one side and celebrate the sugar hit that hopefully will take us from a grey winter through spring to summer.