Losing a band member has historically sparked chaos for many a well-seasoned band. Like Blur without Graham Coxon or the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the years after John Frusciante departed, their respective band’s output noticeably dipped and missed that vital spark that gave the bands their core identity. Three years and two band members later, Birmingham indie rockers Superfood return as a two-piece (Dom Ganderton and Ryan Malcolm) with sophomore record ‘Bambino’, however this time it appears the change is indeed for the better.
‘Bambino’, Superfood’s first effort on Dirty Hit (a label that also homes the likes of The 1975 and Wolf Alice), is evidence that this is a band keen to progress sonically, not happy to rest on their laurels. After the relatively average indie rock outing that was ‘Don’t Say That’, ‘Bambino’ pushes beyond the basic guitar formula of its predecessor to embrace quirky pop hooks, interesting melodies, well-placed samples and forays into bleeping electronic tendencies. It’s infectious stuff. Such pop sensibilities are apparent from the off, with incredibly danceable opening track ‘Where’s the Bass Amp’ immediately setting the tone of the album with its deliciously funky bass riff and catchy use of samples. Where once they indulged in Britpop tinged shimmers, Superfood now appear to have now honed in on a clean pop production sheen, and it works with the R&B, pop influences strongly reverberating across the album.
The band have delved into an eclectic range of inspirations, with each song almost representing a different genre, from the deep reggae beats of ‘I Can’t See’ to the addictive pop bounce of ‘Natural Supersoul’ and then even further to the glitchier sonics of interlude track ‘Wibble Mtn’. The duo sift through a melting pot of pop bangers and influences to great effect, connecting the dots of such disparate musical genres to create an altogether ear-worming musical experience. Most noticeably the bass guitar takes centre stage for much of the album, giving tracks like ‘Raindance’, ‘Where’s the Bass Amp’ and ‘Clo Park’ an underlying funk presence - the former of which plays out like a cross between the natural groove of Jungle and the inherent indie weirdness of Glass Animals.
Production is really what stands out on ‘Bambino’, and almost always at the forefront of the album’s best tracks. ‘Unstoppable’ stands out in this regard and sees a heavy Gorrilaz influence from its meandering sampled harmonica line to frontman Dom Ganderton’s Albarn-like croon. Better yet is the sample-heavy lead single ‘Double Dutch’ which weaves a trip hop vibe from a dark synth riff, intriguing spoken excerpts and shifting melodic vocals. Even ‘Shadow’, a track that represents more of a look-back to the band’s previous indie rock material, hosts a woozy synth presence and vibrant production value that lifts it above your average indie rock song.
Despite this there’s still an inherent silliness to much of the record’s lyrical content. The aforementioned track, ‘Double Dutch’, itself having the rather infantile refrain of “Jumping on the pavement with my friends, jumping to the end with my friends”. However, this is a record that ought to be judged on its pitch perfect production and the sense of fun it exudes rather than the fantastical, borderline ridiculousness of the lyrics on offer.
Not all bands are lucky enough to get a second stab at the big time, but Superfood have learnt from their mistakes and produced a pretty solid pop record. It may not be perfect but it’s good fun. Final track ‘Clo Park’ acts pretty much as an amalgamation of all the ideas scattered across the record, a funkified pop banger complete with a bouncy bass vamp, string section, saxophone breakdown and some of the band’s best nonsensical lyrics, “stepping outside all the grease has gone, just cut the grass we can move along.” A description that pretty much sums up the feel of the album as a whole. A strutting, assured 42 minutes of funky indie-pop indulgence born out of the ashes of a pretty stagnant indie rock band. Proof everyone deserves a second-chance.
Words: Rory Marcham
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