Friday, September 10, 2021

#12 Superorganism - Superorganism

In 2017, I pegged two new bands for future global domination. Each of them had single word names beginning with "S". One was Starcrawler. The other was Superorganism.  

This makes the third time I've name-checked Starcrawler in this series, although neither of their two excellent albums, both of which I own, features in the final twenty-five. The four-piece alt-rock combo has steadily built a reputation as an incendiary live band with a powerhouse rhythm section behind one of the most fearsome front lines you're likely to see and some really great songs. They're not ruling the world yet but they're working on it.

Then there's Superorganism, a peculiar quirky, self-conscious eight-strong art-rock collective frequently received by outraged music lovers as either a scam or a joke. They released their eponymous album three years ago. Since then... nothing. And yet it's Superorganism who make the list. Why?

I've listened to the Superorganism album dozens of times but I've barely played either of Starcrawler's albums at all. Simple as that. Both bands are superb to watch - the eighth member of Superorganism is there just for the visuals ffs - but Superorganism are also endlessly entertaining to listen to. Starcrawler are that little bit too rawk! for me. Especially the second album.

There's absolutely nothing rock 'n' roll about Superorganism, for all they affect the annoyingly smug, self-satisfied pose of people who know they're cooler than you'll ever be. I find it all too easy to imagine them lounging around the decaying orangery of some minor stately home, a decrepit pile formerly owned by a louche and drug-addled minor aristocrat but currently being squatted by some art-left ne'er-do-wells whose trust funds have been temporarily suspended for indeterminate misdemeanors.

Which is actually not a thousand miles from the truth, minus the aristocracy and the trust funds (and probably the orangery), in as much as they do (or did) all live together in the same house. They met "online in music forums and via mutual friends over a number of years" and ended up both recording and living together. 

Four of the eight had been another band entirely, something I did not know until much later. What's more, it was a band I'd not only heard of but a couple of whose songs I'd downloaded from YouTube a year or two earlier.

Had I known half of Superorganism was really the Eversons, New Zealand controversialists known for their tasteless sense of humor and heavy use of irony, I'm not at all sure I'd have been quite as willing to believe. And that was before the revelations about one of the band that got them thrown off their New Zealand label. Guess which one of Superorganism it was. Yes, you're probably right.

All this is just biography, though. We're not going to get into the art/artist debate again, not this time. Let's focus on why this album is so high on my personal favorites list.

Three reasons: Orono Noguchi's bored, affectless vocals, the gleefully jarring arrangements and those big, booming, catchy choruses. I am such a sucker for lack of affect in a singer (not such a thrill in a work colleague, let me tell you...) and off-kilter arrangements always do something good to my nerves. And who doesn't like a great singalong chorus, eh? 

Also they are relentlessly entertaining in all the live clips I've seen. Then again, so are Starcrawler, but it didn't help them any when it came to getting picked.

Not everyone agrees, of course. One of my favorite memories of 2017 was reading the YouTube comments after Superorganism's incredibly flat, mannered performance of Something For Your Mind on Jools Holland's iconic muso love-in, Later:

"If this is the standard bearer for music in the 20teens, it's definitely going to hell in a tatty hand basket"

"Wouldn't think Jools would entertain any of this shit. Most of it is just pre recorded samples, with zero live merit"

"Absolute mindless drivel!!!! That's not music!"

And possibly my favorite of all...

"I was dissapointed to find the lead singer a young little Chinese girl.." 

Pretty sure all of that suggests they were getting everything right. They certainly were for me. As the very different and far more accessible version of the same song they turned in for the much funkier Triple-J set shows, they knew exactly what they were doing.

I can honestly say I love all of their songs... unfortunately that's because they've recorded so few of them. They're pretty much all on this one album.

As for global domination, it's looking very much as though it's already over for Superorganism. A footnote in the history of rock bands too clever for their own good is about the most they can hope for.

Unless that second album turns out to be a killer...


  1. *yoink* Onto the endless "listen to this" playlist they go. :D

    1. Yay! If you like it, don't hold your breath for a follow-up, though.


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