It’s been a year of reminiscing. From the various vintage-inspired style trends sweeping the internet to a serious resurgence in the popularity of Billy Joel’s discography, everyone and their mother is looking for a way to exist in any other time period than the one that we’re currently stuck in. With this pandemic-induced nostalgia in mind, it’s not surprising that indie pop has taken a wistful turn, and Claud’s debut album, Super Monster, is proof of that.
The 21-year-old Chicago-born Claud Mintz (who performs under the stage name Claud) originally made their name in the queer bedroom pop scene. They first released music as part of the pop duo Toast, with Clairo, during their brief tenure at Syracuse University. Through the DIY show scene, a creative and inclusive platform for marginalized musicians, and subsequent tours, they began to garner a dedicated fanbase centralized in the LGBTQ+ community in small pockets all across the country. In 2019, they dropped out of Syracuse and started releasing their own music, creating major internet hits like “If I Were You” and “Wish You Were Gay.”
Much like other artists their age, Claud managed to generate a wild amount of traction before actually having signed to a label. But eventually the hype caught up with them, and they became the first artist to sign with fellow alt-star Phoebe Bridgers’ burgeoning record label, Saddest Factory Records, in 2020. With a significant amount of streaming clout and a big name like Phoebe Bridgers behind them, Claud’s debut was poised to become a low-fi indie sensation.
That’s why Super Monster is such a disappointment. Despite the anticipation surrounding its release, the 13-track, 27-minute album is essentially a blur of soft ’80s synth, tired guitar riffs, and lazily sung lyrics, most of which are neither sophisticated nor particularly clever. Rather than an album written by a young adult for young adults, Super Monster plays like an album made for overzealously “alt” 16-year-olds who just got their driver’s licenses and need music to waste gas to.
The opening track, “Overnight,” is—to put it bluntly—achingly boring and almost comically simple. In it, Claud sings, “You and me /At the pizza place / After the party / Ended real late,” against a chorus of overlapping “oohh’s” and the tittering of a basic drum machine in the background. With each verse, the song gets progressively more and more predictable, ultimately putting listeners to sleep and prompting a swift tap on the skip button. Much like the rest of the album, “Overnight” isn’t necessarily a terrible song—it’s just not that great.
The yawn-inducing track “Guard Down” is essentially the same mix of simplicity and uninventive instrumentation, but its lyrical composition somehow falls even shorter. Over and over, Claud sings, “Don’t let your guard down / Don’t let your guard down / Don’t let your guard down / Don’t let your guard down” in the same monotone voice that haunts the rest of the album. Again, it’s not necessarily hard to listen to “Guard Down,” it’s just not fun or exciting. It’s almost as if Claud is trying to paint a picture of young love, but they have no brushes and the canvas is broken.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some quasi-salvageable tracks on Super Monster. “Ana” and “That’s Mr. Bitch To You” in particular are much better than their peers—“Ana” most notably because of its lyrics. Essentially a breakup song, Claud apologizes to the titular “Ana” about why they can’t be together anymore. In a particularly poignant line, they sing, “Oh Ana / There’s nothing you can do / To get me in the mood,” showing the true dissolution of a romantic relationship between two young adults. Unfortunately, that is the extent to which lyrics impress on Super Monster.
Perhaps Claud is not striving to make remarkable music. Maybe they just want to disappear into the sea of forgotten bedroom pop SoundCloud musicians known for their sleepy and ultimately bland melodies. For an artist that amassed such a following prior to an album release and signed with one of alternative music’s biggest and brightest stars, Claud’s Super Monster falls flat and ultimately disappoints.
Photo Courtesy of Saddest Factory Records