Supercrush are back to administer another dose of impossibly infectious guitar pop with their new EP, Melody Maker. The Seattle-based group–led by guitarist/vocalist Mark Palm along with bassist Phil Jones and drummer Allen Trainer–named their latest batch of songs after a simple student model electric guitar and a weekly rock mag of yesteryear. It’s a winking tribute to the rock n roll continuum that the band so lovingly embraces, but also a fitting nod to the band members themselves and the amount of genuine songcraft that goes into making music that sounds so effortlessly catchy.
Recorded during the same sessions as Supercrush’s 2020 debut album, SODO Pop, the five songs on Melody Maker are far from throwaway leftovers. “We recorded all of the songs at the same time as the LP and then had to decide where everything was going to end up,” Palm explains. “It was a pretty challenging process, but I think these songs ended up making sense together.” Engineered by Jones and longtime collaborator Jackson Long and then mixed by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies, Sebadoh, Wild Pink), the music on Melody Maker highlights Supercrush’s split personality: equal parts soft sentimentality and loud rock bravado. “When I started doing Supercrush, it was sort of a return to my earliest musical interests,” says Palm. “I got into catchy stuff and grunge bands before I even got into punk and aggressive music. There was a big indie and alt rock thing happening in eastern Canada when I was growing up, with bands like Sloan and the Doughboys getting played on MuchMusic all the time, so I was exposed to all of that. In my mind any band that’s melodic and guitar-based is fair game to be an influence on Supercrush–from The Beatles, to My Bloody Valentine, to Boston.”
The EP begins with “Perfect Smile,” a perfect introduction to that blend of influences and the band’s ability to contrast fuzzed-out ‘90s alternative bombast with earnest lyrics and a palpable sense of longing. It’s an effervescent opener that sounds effortless, belying Palm’s attention to detail and meticulous songwriting. “On the one hand the band is definitely fun and there’s a lighthearted aspect to it, but it’s not a joke or a lark,” he says. “I take songwriting really seriously. I think one of the things I love about power pop is that it’s not high-falutin. It can express something deep and soulful but there’s a certain blue collar aspect to it. You don’t have to sit around and wait for some otherworldly inspiration, you can just get to work with the raw materials of songcraft.”
Palm’s skill with that craft is on full display in the EP’s title track, a supremely catchy two minute nugget of ear candy that deftly incorporates staccato guitars, doo-wop-esque bass lines, hand claps, and three part vocal harmonies, with a healthy dose of self deprecation. The lyrics describe a childish and self absorbed narcissist who exists as a star within their own mind, the public at large too foolish to recognize their genius. “I just make music because I like it, but I recognize that there’s a certain arrogance in devoting your life to the pursuit of songwriting,” Palm explains with a laugh. “It kind of implies you think your creation is so worthwhile and valuable, and there’s a humor to juxtaposing that with the almost total indifference of the music consumer. There’s something funny about treating what you’re doing as important, even though it’s not especially successful.”
Supercrush’s desire to take the songwriting seriously, but not themselves, is evident on “Trophy,” an experiment in heavy rotation one-hit wonder radio hit-making that started as a songwriting exercise and became an inadvertent EP standout. The song playfully celebrates the artistry of the commercial earworm, with the band daring themselves to take it one key change, one hand clap too far–but always landing on the right side of catchiness. “There’s a craft to this kind of music, once you learn the trade you can start building on it,” Palm says. “To me it’s so fun to find something unique within the tight framework of pop songwriting. You almost have to be extra creative to express yourself within the limitations of such a rigid genre.”
It’s that drive to keep pushing themselves that elevates Supercrush far beyond the realm of pastiche and into territory that’s catchy but also compelling. As Melody Maker ends with the towering, five and half minute, shoegaze-inflected closer, “Helium High,” it’s clear that this is a bonafide rock n roll outfit, one that’s putting in the work it takes to make big guitars and big hooks sound so instantly satisfying. Luckily, all the listener has to do is turn it up.Tracklist: