Beirut is available at:
London, U.K./Milan, Italy
The album, Quençebo, is available at:
18th November, 2016
All My Friends (LCD Soundsystem)
Music and lyrics by Super Paradise except for LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends.
Mixed and mastered by Filippo Strang at VDSS Recording Studio.
Photography by Michele Foti
NOT only is the first review of 2017…
focusing on a new band leaping into the Garage scene with panache and meaning – the review is going to have the fewest amount of original photos in its five-year history (just two). Tomorrow’s review (of Albert Man) provides a banquet of great images which will give the review some colour and variation – you will have to make do with Super Paradise’s album cover throughout, I am afraid. Before I introduce the band and discuss some other topics, I will welcome the awesome Super Paradise by lovingly kicking their arse – because it’s a new year and don’t want to change who I am! Before I get started, I should introduce the disclaimer: Super Paradise is a band but, the album itself, was largely recorded and features Francesco Roma – the singer recruited new members when he got to London (but will use the term ‘band’ when talking of the album material). It is, unlike the first few words typed 2017, so a good time to get started – with the nit-picking – on a band who have big potential. One of the things that played heavy on my mind last year was artists whose social media pages were a little threadbare and unrevealing. With regards the Italian-British force of Super Paradise: there are few photos (one in fact) and only a little about the band. To be fair, they are on their first album so it is forgivable to overlook the fact there is not a big biography and lots of interview snippets. The only problem arises when trying to put faces to the names: there are no photos and the only thing one find is an album cover. It is, therefore, the fact I start this year with the most monotonous review (in terms of image) that makes me put a rocket up the backsides of the bands and implores they get some snaps together and sorted. That is the only criticism I will levy because, more importantly, there is a lot of good to discuss.
Before I come to introduce them, I want to look at the bands to make 2017; Garage acts (after the introduction) and those musicians that not only bring different nationalities together but (whose) inspirations are different from everyone else. That first point is apt as we are at the first day of 2017. Aside from the fact there are suggestions 2017 will have some hangovers from the past year – another terrorist attack has claimed dozens of lives in Istanbul – I feel 2017 will be a lot more positive and hopeful overall. In terms of music, artists are reacting to that desire for something fresh and new; music that takes the thoughts from the negatives and gives one something full and colourful to get their teeth into. To be honest, there are going to be a lot of duff musicians – as with every year – but some hotly-tipped artists look like making 2017 a phenomenal one for music. Having just seen in the New Year watching Jools Holland’s essential Hootenanny celebration and a certain Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (or ‘Rag ‘N Bone Man’/’Rag and Bone Man’?!) perform; here is a musician tipped for glory that may well live up to the hype. It seems like her, and many other hot, young solo artists, are in favour and making the critics salivate. Bands, as I have mooted in previous reviews, have always been the go-to acts to laud and are seeing their stock decrease – that was the impression from 2016 with the end-of-year album picks reflecting that sense of minority and marginalisarion. Perhaps that is unfair because bands like Hooton Tennis Club, The Avalanches and Underworld resonated with critics and saw their respective albums stand out and celebrated. Past years have seen waves of established bands create stunning albums and steal the honours when it comes to critics’ best. I am pleased to see solo artists defining 2016 but feel this year will be about the bands. Festivals are afoot and there is that desire – following the turd-storm of 2016 – to embrace the sort of magic and fire only a band can muster. I have been keeping my ears to the ground as have Louder Than War. In a recent article, they have listed ten bands that are primed for a breakout. Glam Skanks and their unabashed, free-spirited brand of Rock is personified in bass-grumbling, noise-making riots of bliss like Glitter City. In that same vein, and similar to the L.A. clan, Cabbage have been popping up on many ‘Ones to Watch 2017’ list including BBC’s prestigious longlist.
The Manchester-based band takes the likes of Happy Mondays as influences but feed that bagginess and swagger through a spectrum of mad humour and dark undertones. Yokocola, aside from their intriguing and image-inspiring name, are from Rotterdam but create fierce and determined Punk-Rock that could have emanated from the basement of GBGB in the 1970s. There are a lot more acts waiting to be found but are taking second-place to the solo artists and Urban acts that are defining the tastemakers’ list of 2017 hopefuls. Super Paradise plays in the same wheelhouse as Yokocola and Glam Skanks but are a more refined and nuanced (in my view) alternative. They are a group that are based in the U.K. and are starting to grab headlines from blogs and reviewers. I will continue my point, but before I do, a little about the band:
“With the exception of “All My Friends”, a guitar-driven cover of the LCD Soundsystem classic, all songs have been written and recorded by lead singer and guitarist Francesco Roma in his hometown, Milan, Italy. After moving to London, U.K., Francesco enlisted Nico Spreafico on backing vocals (also on the record) and guitar for live gigs, together with Juliet Styles on synths and Bradley Smith on drums.
Super Paradise summarize their debut album pretty spot on: “Building on the edgy energy of Thee Oh Sees, the rough sounds of Parquet Courts and the soundscapes of New Order, the result is a hypnotic amphetamine rush with dizzying catchy melodies.”
I haven’t been as excited about many bands the last few months because I feel they have been rather limited in terms of originality and energy. Maybe it is my tastes that are not being catered for but nobody has stood in the mind for a little while. I have mentioned groups like Hooton Tennis Club but they are in a minority. I am seeing a lot of bands come through the underground that not only gives hope 2017 will see them grab headlines but a general mood that yearns for band-made music – with the big festivals forthcoming, we are looking for those bands that could fill the stages and be crowned heroes of 2017. Garage is a genre that I have not included in a review for a long time. Normally I look at Rock and Alternative acts but Super Paradise seems to source from that genre – which is very exciting for me. Current darlings like The Wytches and The Oh Sees (a group Super Paradise are influenced by) have crated mainstream albums that have credibility, energy and raw passion; exceptional songwriting and a mix of vintage Garage embers and more variegated strands of Psychedelia. Underground albums like Master’s Touch (by K9 Sniffles) and Liquids’ Hot Liqs runeth over with short bursts of fury and epic solos; tight jams and the kind of gritty, sweaty gems that will be getting proper airing in the festivals of 2017. If the likes of Anxiety’s eponymous album – and all its changing moods and Glaswegian Punk snarls – do not wet the whistle then there is plenty more out there. Garage, like Folk, is a genre you cannot easily define and reduce to cliché. It brings in other types of music and is a lot more flexible than genres like Alternative and Indie. I tend to find, artists that perform in these genres, have one eye on critical acclaim and another on obvious influences. With Garage, there is a bit more individuality and originality that is reflected in a band like Super Paradise and their album, Quençebo. I have grown a bit tired of the generic notes of many bands and feel, when I proffer the potential of 2017, there is a change afoot. I have listed a few Garage-based acts that are worth investigation and would place Super Paradise among them. They take inspiration from other acts but do not conform to easy labelling and boys ready and hungry for wider exposure.
There is no reason as to why the Italian-British band could not create something special this year with regards critical acclaim and festivals slots. They have already recorded and released an album so not wasting time and taking any time to breathe. Although Francesco Roma moved from Milan to form the band, you can hear the impassioned and romantic elements of the (Italian) language come through in the band’s songs. Not to stereotype, but there is elegance and passion to Italians that is hard to ignore or downplay. Roma, as stated, brings that national pride and D.N.A. to Super Paradise’s music but has blended that with all the elements of Garage music we have come to identify and love. It is a wonderful blend of accents, moods and sounds that give Super Paradise that rich and bountiful boiling pot. It is easy to overlook points like nationality but we often assume, when hearing a new band, their members hail from Britain or the U.S. I love the fact Super Paradise have that Italian element but their sound is resolutely British/American. By taking Thee Oh Sees as LCD Soundsystem you have a strong American influence at work. That is not to say the group replicate those bands or abandon any British roots – they are based here after all. The reason I brought up these points – and the bands – is to show how differently Super Paradise do things. A lot of new acts vie for originality but often repeat the work of some rather obvious sources of inspiration. There are very few bands that are truly original – whereby they sound like nobody else – but we still hear too many groups that source their inspiration from obvious and tired avenues. The band has covered LCD Soundsystem (All My Friends) on their debut album but look to groups such as Parquet Courts and New Order for wisdom and propulsion. It is odd to see those bands in the same sentence but you just have to listen to the music (of Super Paradise) to hear those disparate strands coalesce beautifully. Too many young bands either stunt their imagination and limit their focus to music post-1990s or, if taking lead from a new band, are really rather obvious and tactless. Parquet Courts are another American source of inspiration but it is the New Order inclusion that compels me. You can hear a bit of the legendary band when Super Paradise are at their most irrepressible and ambitious. All together and you have a group that are incredibly fresh and original but employ suggestions of others in their music – ensuring there is familiarity among the intrigue. Who knows how 2017 will play out for them but Quençebo is a stunning and memorable album that blends all sorts of themes and sounds to show Super Paradise, although they are new, are ready for the challenges and demands of the touring circuit.
It is hard to compare Super Paradise’s new work with their old because Quençebo is one of the same thing. The album is a brave move because a lot of new bands would start with a single or E.P.; test the reaction and then work from there. The fact they have gone in with an L.P. means they are confident and have plenty of inspiration in the camp. That is all reflected in a record that is consistently confident and assured: it is packed with stunning songs and standout moments. I know Super Paradise have more material so one can compare their debut album with that but what I am hearing now sounds like it emanates from a band who have been performing for years. The guys have been together a little while but are still relatively new. I know they are looking around for opportunities and know what the competition is like. London, where they are based, is a hospitable and large scene where bands of the highest order have an opportunity to do some fantastic work. I am not sure what the London band scene looks like in 2017 but I am hearing some very positive rumblings. If Super Paradise can get in there and cement some gigs: they will build from there and soon get to the attention of festival organisers. It is pleasing hearing such conviction and passion from a band at the debut album level and long may that continue.
I wanted to focus on the song Beirut as I feel, in addition to being the Quençebo standout, is a song that can accrue serious radio support and get to the feet of stations like BBC Radio 6 Music – the natural go-to for any band that wants to be backed by the coolest, most reputable station around. Beirut is track six on the album and has the job of making the final-third as intriguing and gripping as they can. That is no problem as the introduction evolves from light and delicate strings to a head-nodding, body-moving swagger that gets the feet tapping and the brain primed. Before a single word comes to view you are already hooked and invested in the song. It has that blend of instancy and familiarity but, in its edgy and funky riff, you hear a band that does not want to be compared with anyone else. Our hero is looking for reason and seeing people dancing outside. You get engrossed in the swing and determination of the composition which never really lets off. It is a song that wins you more with its composition than it does the vocal. The biggest flaw of the song, and the band’s material, is the fact the vocal is hard to pick up. You strain to understand just what is being sung and a lot of the lyrics either get lost or are mixed too low. That is the only reason I would mark the song down but one feels, when it comes to the crowds, that is not going to be a huge sticking point. For me, and someone that picks songs apart to decipher meaning, it is down to the composition (for the most part) to tell the story. I may be harsh on the band but know their music and performances are strong enough so issues like vocal clarity are minor issues. That point is proved before the one-minute mark as their traditional, spacey synths. are cracked out and evoke all manner of tripped and psychotropic suggestions.
You can hear why they are inspired by, and chose to cover, LCD Soundsystem as you get little touches of the Brooklyn band’s eponymous debut. I know LCD Soundsystem are releasing a new album this year so it is going to be interesting to see how the band mutates and whether they keep their tried-and-tested template firm. Super Paradise has an inventive ambition and authority that few bands of their age possess. If James Murphy’s project is noted for its mainstream potential and underground purity – not kowtowing to the big label bosses but accessible enough for everyone to enjoy. Beirut is a song that starts life as a chugging, fists-primed rocker but then transforms into something more elliptical, intergalactic and floating. It is the details and focus the band puts into the song that amazes me. Lesser bands are hung-up on punchy riffs and negate the importance of variation, nuance and emotional balance. I am all for a song that goes for the guts and gets the blood pumping but has more time for songs that take the time to create moods and possibilities; all manner of visions and ideas are explored. There are twinkles and rushes; there are beautiful vocal twist and turns. There is the need, from the lead and backing vocals, to “Slow down” as “hard days” are coming. That becomes a mantra past the half-way mark and makes you wonder what the song is about. At its core, it seems like a song about holding off against harsh forces and finding strength and faith. The oblique song title leaves it open to interpretation but, as I said, the emphasis is on the composition rather than the meaning of the lyrics. The vocals/lyrics act, in so much as some of them pass you by, are stunning and characterful throughout and always instilled with hope and uplift. There is caution and hesitations but, above it all, that spirit and strength that cannot be played-down.
Beirut is a sub-three-minute song that seems ready-made for the live crowds. It has all the components one can ever hope for: from the tight and compelling riffs to the high-pitched little guitar flecks and the warm, waterfall synths. that take the song in new directions but never lose focus. It is hard to believe the band cover so much ground in such a short space of time and have penned something essential, memorable and addictive. You come back to the song to hear the blend of spirited vocals and that incredible, strutting composition. Those beats, basslines and guitars stay in the memory long after (the song ends) whilst the New Order-inspired synths. have their own life and are worth the price of admission alone. I have stated how the lyrics are hard to make out but that is something the band might work on in future releases. To be fair, as Francesco Roma is Italian, that might just be natural accent coming through strong. I said it is not a big issue and it really isn’t: it is the song’s multiple sides and facets that, when sitting together, create a big sound. Beirut is, to me, the standout from the band’s debut album and a song I can see having life across national radio. If they haven’t thought about it already it is worth getting the song out there to the bigger stations. All-in-all, you cannot find fault with a song that inspires the mind and body – whereas its lyrics paint more restrained and downbeat ideas at times. Super Paradise proves what an effective and well-oiled unit they are throughout the track. Few bands in their stage manage to sound completely gelled and natural without extensive touring. That is a big asset for the guys and one that will stand them in good stead throughout this year.
I have been spouting off about bands and how they will make a resurgence this year. I am overjoyed solo artists are getting their dues and starting to lodge in the minds of critics. I feel, with regards the comparative lack of bands focus, the last couple of years have seen that ever-pressing question come to focus: “Is Rock dead?” It is a complex argument but one that has been motivated by bands who are somewhat lacklustre, copycatting and limited. Given the rise of mainstream bands like Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys – I shall not mention them too much this year – a lot of the new bands coming through were too keen to simply provide their own version of those acts. I know I mentioned Super Paradise alongside acts such as New Order and Parquet Courts but, to be fair, those acts are not often combined – the fact the British band look at LCD Soundsystem and Thee Oh Sees is not the most obvious blend. I shall not get too hung-up with regards inspiration but feel that is what dented the charge of band music over the last couple of years. With heavyweights like Royal Blood suspiciously silent – although they released a short teaser video a couple of weeks back to suggest new music is imminent – there has been a gap and that has given the chance for solo acts to take some market share and get into the critics’ minds. My point is that bands are starting to reclaim footing and there are some fantastic examples that could be making huge impressions this year. Metro ran a recent feature that provided their views on bands (and other artists) that we will be hearing a lot more from in the coming months. Trudy and the Romance have 1950s’ flair and flamboyance with a touch of eccentricity and unbridled energy. Consciously stepping away from 1990s’-influenced and stadium bands and you have a band that is by-no-means niche and underground – they will be doing some great things throughout 2017.
Similarly, Blaenavon are promising an L.P. release this year and, in them, we have a guitar band that have a strong and brash sound that owes debts to few others – expect them to be including in festivals like Reading and Leeds in the coming years. Age of Luna, a BBC Radio 1-tipped Hip-Hop collective, are primed for something immense and have created excited rumblings among this country’s most-popular radio stations and D.J.s. You should look at Metro’s list more carefully because it shows the spectrum and range of bands who are all excited to get this year underway. I feel solo artists will go on to create the finest albums of 2017 but bands should not be overlooked. I opened this thing – and will finish with a look at Super Paradise’s future and debut album soon – by talking about Garage as a genre and the artists that are going to do good things this year. In so much as I have named some critically-acclaimed acts; I wanted to extend that and add Super Paradise into the agenda. 2016 was a dog testicle of a year and one that has been shaken off and eradicated. If some of the worst traits of the year (terrorism and bloodshed) have already found their way into the brand-new year I feel that need for positivity and togetherness will see music play a much bigger role than it has in living memory. There is nothing we can do to stop the rise of hateful politics and separation ideas – Britain coming out of the E.U. and Trump choosing the wallpaper for The White House – and that is something we all have to live with. If the public majority (of the U.K. and U.S.) have been inspired by xenophobia and false promises then musicians and the best of the form will come together and show just how powerful music is. For that, as an ideal, political movement and common voice, is more potent and all-embracing than anything else.
Bands will play a more prominent role this year but to be fair, we are a day in so it hard to say how things will pan out and the way things will go down. Take the time to study Super Paradise as they have the determination and talent to go as far as they need to. It may be early days for the guys but all the signs are there. If they see themselves as ‘Garage’ then F.C. owes more to idols like New Order. Touches of the 1980s come through in the rushing and bubbling introduction. The performance is tight and energised whilst the vocals have a lightness and tenderness to them – whilst remaining rushing and bustling. One of the only criticisms about the song is the vocals are mixed a little too low down and suffer clarity problems. It can be hard to decipher some of the lyrics but that may just be down ti the pace in which they are delivered. F.C. is an opener more appealing because of its whole rather than single elements like lyrical decipherability. It is a song that blends stunning riffs and big chorus with synthesizer-led magic and cosmic entrance; getting into the head and create all manner of images in the listener. Dawn begins more bracingly and sharp but soon mutates into big vocals and fast-moving compositional notes. It is a hungry and singalong song that blends bands union with a hot-blooded vigour and intensity. All My Friends covers LCD Soundsystem but gives the song new lease and breath. It is not a simple knock-off and is as though the band themselves wrote it. The song fits perfectly alongside the other tracks across Quençebo and shows just how adaptable the band is. Tonight ends the album with teasing, light strings to begin and a calm and restrained demeanour. You get drawn into the introduction and all its softness and comfort. The guitars soon expand and layer and more atmosphere come to light. The song provokes imagination and you picture what the composition represents and what it is trying to say. Percussion rumble gives things a spritz of thunder and rain whilst synths. suggest sunshine and warmth. It is a full and rousing piece that lifts the spirits and says so much without words being sung. You get some far-off vocal snippets in the back but the overall piece has the feel of Psychedelic and concept: a mix of Pink Floyd and The Cinematic Orchestra, strangely. It is the perfect way to end the album.
There are not many negatives or drawback from Quençebo and it is a triumphant album from the band. Occasionally, clarity goes begging and the vocal gets buried under the composition – it can be hard deciphering what is being sung and intelligibility hard to come by. That is not always the case and the band compensate with ample passion and invention. It is hard, despite their influences, hard to compare them with anyone and I was impressed by the originality of the music offered. Across the eight-track album, there are all sorts of subjects and emotions explored and you never feel lost or overwhelmed. At the heart is that determined and spirited Garage-Rock sound that marries fine and gritty riffs with big chorusing and a perfect combination of New Order-esque synths. and who-gives-a-crap-about-our-troubles rebellion. A resolute and jam-packed album that is going to sound fantastic when played live. I will close this by stating Super Paradise have a great opportunity to bring in a lot of new fans throughout the U.K. London is going to be an important area for them and somewhere they can get a lot of gigs and support. There are some fantastic bands starting to formulate and speculate and Super Paradise will be on the same page. They have an impressive album under their belt and can take that out to the crowds. I am not sure what their general game plan is for 2017 but one imagines they will want to get festivals and bigger gigs under their belt. It would be good to see more exposure from the guys and get their faces on the page. There may be band photos out there but you feel like there is too much mystery from the guys. Getting some shots done will not only make their more visible and human to festival organisers and venues but will give fans a chance to ‘see’ the band. It is not a huge issue but they can build they stock – could not find a Twitter page for them – and start getting their name out there. It is all well and good having a great album but social media and visibility are just as crucial. They deserve long-term acclaim and the best way to do this is ensure their social media pages and full and complete. Until then, and given the fact they have some great music out there, make sure you check Super Paradise out as they are one of those bands that can…
MAKE 2017 a very bright year.
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