When Superfood released their debut Don’t Say That in 2014, I was disappointed. That is not to say it was bad, but rather that it represented an incomplete realisation of the band’s potential, which was sky high in the wake of their 2013 EP, MAM. That record’s four tracks were all excellent songs; for the most part good fun, but achieving moments of surpassing quality. The band’s first single TV featured on MAM, and a subtly different mix of the song appeared on Don’t Say That. It’s a quirky Britpop style tune about the dreamless and fitful nights’ sleep that await frontman Dom Ganderton when he can’t have the telly on, and perhaps a jab at the technology obsessed youth of today. The childish connotations of the night-light constituted a bold move for a first single, and a great music video appeared with the song. TV was arguably the LP’s standout song, although singles Mood Bomb and Right on Satellite, as well as Bubbles (also on MAM) were memorable highlights.
Ganderton’s production chops remain top notch. His work as a producer catapulted Swim Deep and Peace into the mainstream music consciousness, and having total control over the songs on MAM was obviously a great project for him to head. With a tight rhythm section and a stellar lead guitarist at his back, Ganderton’s Superfood were ready to slay. However, a wild shift in musical direction meant that basically all the new material on Don’t Say That was very different to the kind of songwriting the band’s apostles were used to. Perhaps for other listeners, this was not such a bad thing. For me however, the changes represented a detrimental move away from the truly exciting songwriting exhibited on the EP. Where once there were daring chord progressions and exploratory melodies on guitar and vocals, there were suddenly kind-of-okay riffs played on loop, and if anything, even more nothingy lyrics. MAM represented a carefree, youthful sense of humour fused with good production, but the follow up was frankly too juvenile for its own good.
Ganderton has now axed the rhythm section, leaving just a two piece, confirming that the DST incarnation of the band’s style is what he envisioned when he sits down to work on Superfood songs. Correspondingly, Bambino is a development of the kind of material that we were treated to with the last LP. It’s an improvement in that department, but refining naivety and polishing the inoffensive is not what would have made this a great album. While outlets like NME have praised the change of lineup, I find I can’t see the point of it. There is still percussion, but no percussionist, bass, but no bassist. Call me old fashioned, but this does not augur well for watching the pair play these songs live, especially not if you want to see them break out the old tunes. What’s more, guitarist Ryan Malcolm’s input on the 2013 four-track was very impressive. It’s no surprise that he survived these cuts; the two obviously work very well together, and complement each other nicely. However, his biting treble tone and fine ear for melody have been reigned in to make room for the less enticing elements of the band’s sound. This is a misuse of resources on the band’s part, and a waste of Malcolm’s obvious talent.
For all that annoys me about the new album (a lot), I find I can’t say it’s objectively bad. The songs are listenable almost across the board, and for the most part, enjoyable. Experimentation with tape echo, samples, and loops occasionally pays off very well, on standout tracks Where’s The Bass Amp?, Shadow, and Natural Supersoul. On other tracks, these plays don’t quite come off; Double Dutch features an inexcusably annoying sample which overshadows some impressive guitar work, and if a different lyric had been penned for this track, I might love it. However, it remains a kind of grating number about, you guessed it, skipping.
Although this review felt and probably reads like a rant, I reiterate that this is only because it continues to frustrate me to see this band squander obvious potential in unchallenging and unrewarding soundscapes. The last thing English musicians need to be producing these days is more dance numbers, frankly. However, some memorable songs made their way onto the new LP, and it represents an interesting effort. If Superfood want to really make waves, they need to reintegrate a rhythm section, but until then, it’s a tepid response from me.
Picks:Where’s The Bass Amp?, Shadow, Witness