Super Best Friends Club - Super Best Friends Club

by Amy Putman Rating:9 Release Date:2013-02-10

I have to admit I was a little nervous before I began this review. Like a long term celibate thrown into a sack with six nymphomaniacs and a chest of sex toys, I was worried that after a lengthy break I would have forgotten how to write. Would my fingers remember the motions? Would my brain keep up? Could it ever do a good job in the first place? Just how rusty was I? Would I manage to pick up and stand to attention in the face of a daunting task, or would I sit in the corner mumbling incoherently, beaded with sad, deflated sweat?

Luckily for me, Super Best Friends Club made it easy to get enthusiastic and want to write something at least, if only so others would see my tawdry few words and check out the maze of sound which had bewildered the writer so. I say bewildered, but what I really mean is amazed and stunned. This album dragged me from flailing, apathetic, numb fear to dancing round the room with wild, joyful abandon in a fifth of a second; the minimum time scientists believe it takes to fall in love.

For nine glorious tracks I writhed around my room, unable to do anything except allow the music lead me deep into a labyrinth of styles and rhythms; a shocking yet somehow perfectly fitting new mode round every twisting turn. So good was it, I feel it is my mission to push it upon others; the more people that hear this album, the better the world will be.

Of course, reviewing something you actually like brings with it its own inherent problems; no sooner had the album finished but I was again wracked with stifling insecurity. An apprehension I was unable to do it credit; that my brain was not up to describing adequately the myriad unusual blends, subtle comedies, roaring yet not overbearing harmonies, and perfectly timed clashes. The fear that any clumsy sentences I splooged onto and from my keyboard would dull the life of this album and leave it seeming comparatively base and uninspiring, like a child with a crayon trying to describe the Taj Mahal. I have concluded that my best course of action is to kneel, plaintive before you all and exhort, nay, beg and plead with you all to give this music a listen; just give it one fair go - it's all I can ask of you, human to human, ear to ear.

That is not to say this leafy, magical, mystical, creature-filled maze of an album does not have a few dead-ends. A few songs are slow to get started, with lingering, unformed intros which can be a little frustrating. The overall tone is a little self-indulgent and knowingly 'different'; it sounds like they're trying a little too hard to have fun. That said, anything resembling posing is undermined by the exuberance and forward-motion displayed, and the irreverent and happy blending of musical forms and styles, which I defy anyone to listen to and not smile.

'Sunshine! Super Megatron!' (track six) sounds initially over-earnest and mimicking of bad protest music, but is quickly rescued by some wonderful distorted vocals used as an exciting, gnawing tune, which elevates this to one of the best songs on the album, especially since it is the first song I have ever heard to successfully use poetic, self-consciously descriptive speech in a way that does not come across as conceited, ham-fisted and cringe-worthy. The track finishes with some energetic harmonies and twisting almost-jazz. Glorious.

Perhaps the worst thing present here (which makes it sound worse than it is, since the overall quality is so high even their worst is other bands' best) is the end of the album. It finishes so abruptly it creates a vacuum in the room. It's as though you are drawn slowly, craftily and beautifully into a parallel world of fae-dances, flying monks, moon parties and juicy stars, and allowed to mingle there for a glorious while until you almost feel like you belong, only to be booted roughly in the face by a steel-capped Dr Marten and physically thrown into a cold, drab, black-and-white version of your real, normal, boring life. It was jerky and rough and an unfair finish to a beautiful piece of art, since it created such disconnect and brutality it made me question the actual music, feeling unpleasant and queasy and alone.

All in all, this album is best summed up with the word 'glorious'. It is sumptuous and at once varied and blessed with a distinctive, overarching sound. It is precise without being overworked, fun without being silly. There is incredible honesty in songs like 'Universe, Universe', which will resonate with anyone who has ever been shy, lost, confused, or felt like they have messed up their life or are lagging behind in their own success. 'Doom', meanwhile, is the soundtrack to isolation, performed in a luxurious style which mingles Gregorian-style chanting with jungle beats and marks it out as my favourite track on the album.

Which brings me to the name of the band and, indeed, their self-titled album. Now, I'm going out on a limb here since there is nothing on their website to confirm this, but since they are roughly my age and I find it impossible to believe that anyone of my generation does not know and avidly watch South Park, I reckon it's a fair bet that my guess is correct and they have named themselves after the 'Super Best Friends' on the show. In South Park, they are a rag-tag band of religious figures of many faiths (Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Krishna, Laozi and Sea Man, a mostly useless Aqua Man rip-off that the others laugh at).

If I'm right, and this isn't just a coincidence, and Super Best Friends are not simply super best friends who want to broadcast it loud and proud, then I have to say it's one of the most fitting names for both band and album. This album blends cultures and styles in a friendly tumble, creating an amalgam of the esoteric, mundane, emotional and spiritual with a sharp edge of humour. I hope I'm right; it's a perfect metaphor. The Super Best Friends would be proud.

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