‘From surprising intimacy to soaring power ballad-esque musicality, it’s their biggest release to date.’
Atmospheric, sparse and surprisingly intimate to begin with, pressing play on Superbird’s latest release ‘Operate’ will have you initially wondering if it is in fact them. Unlike every other track to date, the power isn’t what surges into our ears. Instead, it’s a mix of intriguing ratchet-esque clatters, ringing chords and a noticeably more subtle vocal tone. We actually, rather than getting hit between the eyes, really have to listen. This is a new, yet equally connective side to Superbird and certainly makes you want more. Thankfully for us on travelling through the opening verse, that’s exactly what we get.
Set to this atmosphere, rather than our attention being pulled about, it easily becomes focused on the lyrical content. This, with phrases such as the initial one of ‘Two down at the scene, A love drunk war in quarantine’, carries weight stronger than may have been expected. Equally, with the underlying musical subtlety and the softer edged tone, you feel strangely, and unexpectedly touched by what you’re hearing. However, the sense of familiarity soon begins to creep back.
Forming a rock-blues tinged sound, bass guitar lines provided by Freddy deliver the right amount of dominance while Alex ensures there’s a rhythmic centre that feels sensitive. For long-term readers of Listen to Discover and long-term fans of the trio, this choice of words, for this band may well surprise you. It certainly did me when I first heard it. But everything really does feel controlled and precise. For a band that is all about powerful musicality and outlandish attire, it’s far from what you would have expected. But that makes it all the better.
With the track having felt incredibly restrained by Superbird standards throughout these opening sections, we begin to get a sense that things are to change. Indicated in a way that’s as subtle as what we have just been hearing, vocal inflections from Joe gradually gain more dominance while deep bass does likewise. In fact, it is only the slightly more edgy delivery of the lyrical anacrusis ‘Cause no one’ that confirms it. And the transformation that occurs is about as Superbird as it gets!
Thrusting us into the stratosphere on the title lyrics, all sense of subtlety gets tossed aside and replaced by an explosion of sound. Suddenly those humble beginnings make complete sense. With us now experiencing the dominance we assumed would soar into our ears at the start, you realise that if the track had begun like that, the chorus would have had limited impact. Instead, with it truly hitting us between the eyes, the mix of soaring distortions and alternations of half-time accents and driving dominance have potentially more impact than any other release.
Continuing to showcase his vocal versatility, throughout both the aforementioned chorus and the verse which follows, Joe consistently keeps us guessing how phrases will be set. Forming call and response motifs with himself through mid sentence breaks, one moment it’s solo power and the next it’s falsetto-filled harmonies. Yet, while the changes occur rapidly, not once does it sound disjointed. Building on this further, with a sea of multi-tracked settings evolving throughout the second verse, he delivers as much interest alone as the accompaniment above which it sits.
Decorating the main chordal progressions with as much as can be thrown at them, the stripped back experience of verse one feels a million miles away from where we are now. Here, while the intent of the lyricism remains the same, the environment couldn’t be any more different. Effortlessly picked melodic fragments surprise us, domination-fuelled injections of power surge through and bass lines slide so much you wonder if Freddy’s fingers are about to fall off the fret board! It really is quite the sound! But things are soon to become even more explosive.
Seamlessly shifting into the most impactful instrumental they have ever given us, following the chorus resurgence we head off on a transformative tour of phenomenal musicality. Consisting of countless guitar lines and thrashing drums so dominating that you’re amazed Alex’s kit is surviving, the accompaniment is as full-throttle as can be. However, add to this an emotionally soaring, pitch-bending solo from Joe and you’ll think your listening to a testosterone-fuelled 80’s power ballad. This though is only a taster of where we will end up.
Pushing this theme right to the conclusion, after a brief, highly appropriate return of softness around the phrase ‘My pulse fading, Save me, save me’, dominance gets prescribed to us at triple the dose. Kicking back in with ringing power chords and ticking high-hat, you know that there is going to be one massive, crashing climax. And, with a rock-out drum solo signalling the resurgence really is about to happen, an absolute onslaught of spellbinding Superbird creativity smashes us in the face.
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Find out more about frontman Joe Fin and Superbird at: Behind the Music: Interview with Joe Fin, Gig Review: Joe Fin at BBC Intro Essex, EP Review: Joe Fin: The EP, Track Review: Superbird: Cola Bottle Fizz, Track Review: Superbird: Super Superior and Gig Review: Superbird at Notting Hill Arts Club