Super700 – Lovebites

Lovebites

Lovebites

I’ve heard a lot of bands attempt a retro 1980s synth/pop sound. Most of them fail because of an annoying vocalist, antagonistic, egocentric noisiness and flat out bad songwriting. They could learn a thing or two from Germany’s Super700 and their newest release, Lovebites. It’s a pleasant, humble and romantic outing of memorable hooks, sophisticated music and endearing female singers. It successfully combines the glam 80s sound with vocals and themes reminiscent of No Doubt’s heyday.

Super700 are a seven piece band (three vocalists and four musicians) from Berlin. Interestingly, the three singers are sisters Ibadet, Ilirjana and Albana Ramadani. There’s also founder and bassist Michael Haves, guitarist Johannes Hall, keyboard player Simon Rauterberg, and percussionist Sebastian Schmidt. They’ve been compared to M83 and Goldfrapp, and unlike fellow unisex group Scissor Sisters, Super700 are good. Very good.

The crashing drums and biting guitar line of “Tango” grabs your attention immediately. The subtle synthesizer blanket doesn’t hurt either. The track builds up nicely from a fairly simple verse to a damn catchy chorus that effectively conveys the hazards of love (no, not the Decemberists record). Whichever sister is singing masterfully captures the duplicity of a heartbroken girl who rebels against being such. And of course, there is a similarity to Gwen Stefani because she often sang and wrote like that.

“The Other Side” is a cool little interlude into “STTSMC,” which has a more optimistic pop feel, and the sisters harmonize between verses. It feels more like an album track than a single (it’s not very attention grabbing), but it keeps things moving well enough with a nostalgic melody and guitar homophony. “We Will Never Drown” begins with waves and the electronic, tinny noises of the original NES games. Again, the chorus is simple but nice with harmonies and effective intervals. The middle instrumental part is very dreamy, reprising the chorus through the keyboard as arpeggios are played and the drums keep a simple beat. When the voices join in, it’s a very special sound entirely.

A haunting voice and ominous piano lead “When the Rain Comes,” another interlude which fades into the unassuming, clean guitar ballad “Rosebud.” This is the sparsest and slowest song so far, and it’s a bit boring, but it also has that eerie sense of 1950s corruption behind a white picket fence that would fit perfectly in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Things pick up again with the pure 1980s vibe of “The Fortuneteller.” Here we have a bit of a punky, fast verse with a very elegant chorus, and great production. It’s a standout on the album.

The swirling synthesizer is the star of “Second In Line.” Again, an average verse is compensated by a whimsical chorus. The pounding drums of African chants add a bit of intrigue, and the tribal middle section is a welcome implement. “Drive Too Fast” begins with perhaps the most effortlessly beautiful melody I’ve ever heard before yet another run of the mill verse, accompanied with vacant drums and guitar. Like much of Lovebites, the reason to listen is the chorus, which is what the track started out with (a technique I must attribute to The Beatles’ classic “She Loves You”). It’s a situation where you’ll be distracted during the verses but the chorus will pull you back in.

“Spring (The Old Pretender)” has a simple rock beat and a warming outlook. Again, there is a definite essence of No Doubt throughout the album, and that’s no different here. The title track features acoustic guitar, a driving rhythm, and a bit of a psychedelic, spacey aspect over the electric guitar line. It’s a pretty heavy track musically compared to what’s previously been heard, and the sisters get a bit gravelly (but not enough to enter the heavy metal genre). The lighter “River Song” is the third interlude, and closer “Revolution” uses echo and reverb to interesting effect. The piano and guitar solos are nicely accompanied by a weird voice over, and it’s definitely the most “out there” track on Lovebites (it’s good to see the band growing within the album itself). Melodically, it’s not much to rave about, but musically it’s interesting enough.

Super700 are great with creating a lot of power (both volume wise and thematically) with little technique. The tracks don’t carry masterful playing or singing, but that’s not the point. They want to tell uncomplicated, universal stories of both sadness and joy with amateur skill (which isn’t to say that they’re bad at what they do; they just don’t show any signs of being “great players”). Reverting back to No Doubt, Lovebites has the same spirit and mood as their stellar Return to Saturn. Anyone looking for a return to these moments in musical history would do well with this album. It’s a nice trip down memory lane that still sounds fresh.