Claud – Super Monster Album Review

Saddest Factory – 2021

This album is a debut in two aspects, being the first album from LA based bedroom-pop star Claud Mintz and also being the first release on Phoebe Bridgers‘ newly founded Saddest Factory Records, launched last October. Claud first gained attention for their woozy dream-pop infused “Wish You Were Gay” released back in 2019 followed by their Sideline Star EP released later in the year. Following on from the likes of fellow bedroom-pop stars Clairo and Beabadoobee, who have gained a loyal set of fans thanks to their intimate, yet sonically rewarding pop ballads. They now return with a coming of age album that is infused with heartbreak and yearning to be loved.

The album title refers to a drawing done by Daniel Johnston titled Claud And The Super Monster and this idea of a superhero and monster merged into one is something that Claud inhabits on this album. Everybody’s got the good and the bad within them, but ultimately they’re just trying to do their best. Claud spent most of their adolescence moving from city to city, the inevitable fallout that this had on personal relationships can be felt throughout this album. Over various moods of indie-pop tinged musings Claud tells the story of somebody clinging on to love when ultimately it may be doomed to fail. The opening line of the glittery opener “Overnight” tells this exact tale, “I fell in love like a fool overnight”. Claud has previously said that they “feel love really intensely” and you can hear every ounce of the love that Claud wants to give, especially on intimate moments like on the intoxicatingly catchy “Soft Spot” where they sing “Pull the covers over our short hair, Pretend like the city wasn’t there”. They’re not even afraid to put aside embarrassment and share unpolished anecdotes like on “Pepsi” as they sing “I hate that you told me to masturbate, Instead of comin’ over”.

Perhaps one of Claud’s strongest assets that is explored on this album is their ability to turn experiences into unapologetically catchy melodies. You only need to hear the chorus line of “In Or In -Between” once to have it stuck in your head for days. Even on softer moments like “This Town” the serenity of Claud’s vocals reign supreme above every other aspect of the track. Bathed in psychedelic infused textures, there’s a certain natural cool to Claud’s vocal stylings, never straining too hard but always hitting the sweet spot of momentary bliss, the like of which can be felt all over “Soft Spot”. And she even invokes some of the tendencies of pop’s super queen Taylor Swift on “Jordan”, through its country tinged ballad flow, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Swift’s Red album.

It’s not just the modern pop greats that Claud leans on for influence though. There’s also hints of early 2000’s pop-punk on the misogynist put-down “That’s Mr. Bitch To You”. And on “Guard Down” they infuse elements of post-disco, with the obnoxiously gratifying back and forth groove. There can be moments however where the influence and genre fusing can become slightly off-putting. Unfortunately this is found during the second verse of “Guard Down” where Claud’s faux-rap interlude takes you away from the sweet tendencies the rest of the track offers and almost borders on the line of parody. It’s clear that Claud was obviously just having fun whilst making these tracks, but that sometimes comes at the cost of losing the rawness of the songs sound.

As this album progresses you can at times feel Claud get too fixed into her comfort zone of short indie-centric, flanger-infused ballads. On penultimate track “Rocks At Your Window”, the melody and guitar passage is oozing in raw longing, however as this song is just about to reach a potentially powerful climax it fades out. There’s a glimpse of where the track could have gone on the first chorus, but instead it’s exchanged for a short fade out of swirling synthesisers. And on “Pepsi” the 80’s inspired bass line and synth pop soundscapes never really bring the song to any new grounds that can’t be heard elsewhere on the album. Claud’s vocal don’t even feel as inspired here, that hint of understated prowess just feels slightly missing. But this album does end on a strong conclusion however with “Falling With The Rain”, a track that features Shelly, a band compromised of Claud them self, Clairo and former Toast bandmate Josh Mehling. The power pop groove breathes new life into the end of the album and Claud’s natural flair returns with her juxtaposing lyrics of “In my head, I hang on by a thread” that backed with a swirl of uplifting and dance hall worth instrumentation. The super monster metaphor still runs true.

For a first outing Claud has certainly set the bar high for whatever may come next, a bare bones album full of honesty and unpolished tales of a life of love. But for now lets just enjoy the pop-centric grooves that Claud has brought us and try and find the super monster within ourselves as we listen.

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