The Superheroes – Igloo

Let’s examine a few facts about the Superheroes, shall we? First you have the cover art, with the decidedly 80’s looking woman cozying up to an igloo (not ironically, the name of the album is Igloo), coupled with the annoying, promotional band name, usually better suited to early 80’s ska acts. Then, here’s the kicker – the Superheroes are so entranced in their retro-ness that they list all of their cool analog keyboards and dated drum machines not only on their website but in their album sleeve as well. This wouldn’t be of note if this list did not reside in the same album sleeve that neglects to print, among other things, the band’s lyrics and the names of the band members. Obviously, the Superheroes have some priority issues.

The Superheroes join a too-long list of bands that concentrate a bit more on looking 80’s than actually sounding it. Nonetheless, the Superheroes, compared to their peers, do a somewhat admirable job of recreating that lifeless synth sound of MTV pop circa 1985. The biggest difference is that the primary instruments on this album really are those overpriced analog keyboards. Most bands of this genre still write on their guitars then simply flavor their songs with keyboard flourishes. The Superheroes use their synths more readily than their peers, though; unfortunately, it is at the expense of their songwriting. While most of the songs on Igloo are certainly listenable, you never get hit with the irresistible sing-along chorus that this sort of retro indulgence begs.

When the band’s formula works, they do a pretty good job with it. “Ghost” and “Voice (On the Radio)” are both catchy enough to keep you from reaching for the forward button. The male/female vocal attack and foreboding keyboards of “Nightmare” create a sort of New Order vibe that works surprisingly well. “Searching” has the most digestible, candy melody on the album, and for that same reason it might be the Superheroes’ best song.

The same bravado that appears in the band’s name manifests itself in a few of the songs as well, to a less than desirable effect. The quick, punky “Miami” isn’t quite as bad as that Will Smith song of the same name, but it’s just as annoying. The faux-British accent on “Johnny and I” is rather unbearable. The brash nature of the band is most disappointing on “Julianna” and “Paradise of Me,” both of which open promisingly soft, only to be ruined by a rush of fuzzy keyboards and chunky, awkward choruses. The gorgeous “Calculating” (the album’s six-plus minute closer) shows what the band can do when it reigns in its explosions.

If you’re a big fan of new wave synth-pop, maybe this is right up your ally. I’d love to give this album a better recommendation than that, but I just don’t think the songwriting justifies it. What the band gains in retro cred-points, it gives up in the songwriting column. If the band could reproduce the success it had with a few songs here, namely “Searching” and “Calculating,” it could put together a truly good record. Until then, the Superheroes have stumbled upon possibly the greatest testament to their authentic sound: I still don’t want to listen to it.