[4 January 2006]
Surrender! is the first release from the reunited Super Deluxe since 1997, but the intervening years have done nothing to mature their sound. Still working within the anti-grunge, post-alternative power-pop framework on which they originally staked their claim, Super Deluxe is the mid-‘90s throwback you weren’t really waiting for and don’t really need.
Back in 1995, in the midst of grunge, Super Deluxe offered a bright spot on the scorched earth landscape of the Pacific Northwest. But after two albums, 1995’s Famous and 1997’s Via Satellite, the Seattle quartet took an extended break that became indefinite. It was 2004 before vocalist Braden Blake, Guitarist John Kirsch, bassist David Roberts, and drummer Chris Lockwood got back together and picked up right where they left off.
The first two tracks of Surrender! are the best of the album. “Come Down” is a hard guitar power-pop rocker with flailing cymbals and Blake’s smoothed over vocals. The sugary coating wears thin quickly, though, because it falls a little to close everything you heard the first time around in the ‘90s. A tale of stepping in to rescue the unappreciated girlfriend of the neighborhood stud, the catchy “Knockout” would have been new and creative in 1995, but now it just dances along the lines of a near-novelty song, which is unfortunate, because the song is catchy as hell.
The opening guitar of “Upsidedown” turns quickly into the big sounding polished work of the last decade, simultaneously drowning out the vocals and destroying the song’s identity. The problem is that same line could be written about every song on this collection. “Safe and Sorry” at least carves out an identity for itself with Kirsch’s stop-start guitar work and Blake’s harmonizing vocals.
Other than the big fans who have been waiting patiently for the past eight years for the triumphant return of Super Deluxe (and I’m sure you know who you are), there is little reason to spin this disc.