Superheavy were conceived as a “Mad alchemist-type experiment” and have a name inspired by the great, Muhammad Ali. But amid all the backslapping and self-congratulation because this group are intergenerational, intercultural and are attempting to create new genres in sound, the whole exercise seems a rather expensive one in self-indulgent, garish music.
There’s no denying that the band had the makings of something rather super. Take a rock legend (Mick Jagger); add a soul diva (Joss Stone); combine with a synth-pop hero (Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart); and mix gently with reggae artist, Damian Marley and Bollywood film score composer, A. R. Rahman. The quintet boast 11 Grammy awards between them and the individuals clearly brought their favourite genres to the musical table, not to mention the fortes they possess in their chosen area. They say they wanted a convergence of different styles and boy did they get it!
The whole shebang started when Stewart was at home in Jamaica enjoying the warm sounds washing in with the breeze. Like a mad scientist he decided to get some friends and other people in to jam. They would make 35 hours worth of music that they eventually whittled down to 12 songs. The recording process was equally as convoluted with parts completed in no less than LA, Cyprus, Turkey, Miami, India, the Caribbean and the South of France. These scenes are as exotic as the marriage of musical styles on offer from reggae to bluesy R&B, rock ballads to Indian pop, hip-hop and Caribbean rhythms. Basically, it’s the Americas meets the islands and the East and all via Mother England.
At times the group sound like they’re having a ball noodling away while at other moments things seem awkward, contrived and plain cliched. Like the title track where they sing: “We are superheavy” in case we were unaware or Joss Stone asking, “What the fuck is going on?” on “I Can’t Take It No More”. The second song, “Unbelievable” doesn’t fare much better as it contains the well worn: “It’s unbelievable/never wanna give it up…nothing lasts forever”.
The debut single, “Miracle Worker” is the closest realisation to what Stewart thought up by the sea. With its fusion of reggae and rock, it is an effective taster to the remainder of the LP. “Satyameva Jayathe” is the complete opposite, as it’s all in Sanskrit and is built around a choir and some music from the fiddle selling India’s national motto: “Truth alone triumphs”.
“Energy” is perhaps one of the group’s most overdone tracks. It features numerous guitar power chords, some harmonica from a 60s R & B track, dub music, a wailing Joss Stone and Mick Jagger rapping (who doesn’t fair much better elsewhere as he seems like a whiny caricature of his finer self). Like a lot of the proceedings you can imagine the guys in the studio having an exchange like the following:
“Right, let’s do a reggae song”
“But we’ve gotta add some heavy guitar riffs”
“Don’t forget the Eastern flavours”
“Wait, what about the synth?”
“Well, we could just write something softer and more political…”
“Hell, let’s just try and tackle the lot”
Superheavy is a bewildering and weird collection of jams that only occasionally verge on being songs. Often like oil and water, the many different elements don’t gel and adding everything and the kitchen sink does not prove that this lot are creating new movements in style and sound.
While you’ve gotta admire the ambition of the participants, there is little doubt that once the curiosity over the talent wears off this circus-like hodgepodge will simply register off the scales thanks to its bloated nature and will completely disappear off the radar because it does little to sustain listeners’ attentions beyond the rather polite first listen.
Originally published on 4 January 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31272/Superheavy–Superheavy
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