World Wide Pop


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World Wide Pop Review

by Tim Sendra

Following up a successful debut album is hard. Not too many artists are able to execute the tightrope walk of sounding enough like they did initially while still managing to sound like they've progressed in some way. Sadly, Superorganism plunges right off the wire into the abyss. Unlike their self-titled debut, which was a striking hyperpop delight packed with surprises, odd juxtapositions of sound, and seemingly more ideas than they could squeeze into the grooves, World Wide Pop is flat and uninspired, overdone and undercooked, and filled with dubious choices. First off, the band hired two safe-as-milk producers, Stuart Price and John Hill, to give their joyfully wacky sound of coat of gloss so thick it covers most of the band's personality in chirpy familiarity and empty blandness. The surprising samples, breathtaking tonal shifts, and inventive rhythms are all gone, replaced by stock sound effects and songs that flow politely from point A to point B with nary a diversion. Worst of all, the idiosyncratic, painfully human, slacker-poet vocals of Orono Noguchi are far too often buried in Auto-Tune and stripped of their uniqueness. All the life and love is sucked out of the music at every turn in the name of safe, easy-to-playlist tunes. That kind of attitude isn't what gained the band any fans in the first place; it was their oddball approach to pop music that did. They were also able to thrive without a parade of guest artists, a plague World Wide Pop suffers from on half the record. The band's debut was just fine without Stephen Malkmus rapping, CHAI chiming in with (admittedly cute) backing vocals, or with French vocalist Pi Ja Ma in the mix; they all sound either extraneous or annoying here. It's very reminiscent of when the Go! Team ditched their initial sample-heavy approach on their second album, brought in a ton of collaborators, and took a creative nosedive. They recovered, and hopefully Superorganism will too, if they ditch the guests and fancy producers, delete the Auto-Tune app, and trust the instincts that made the debut so good. There are a few moments where some of the inventiveness they exhibited there does come through. For example, the shimmering "Solar System" slows the tempo down from the frantic speed of the rest of the album, adds goofy samples, and sports a sweetly romantic chorus. "Oh Come On" also sounds good at first, until the realization hits that it's a slick photocopy of "Something for Your M.I.N.D." right down to the guitar slide and crunching sound effects. It's a stunning example of just how disappointing this album is, by giving a glimpse of what made them so special and ruining it with facile production and new ideas that sound more hackneyed than thrilling. A second album can be a true test of whether a band has lasting power. Judging by the tepid performance of World Wide Pop, it doesn't look good for Superorganism or the fans who were transported by their debut album.

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