Dreaming can be really awkward at times. And, as with most awkward things, you have next to zero control over it. You may wake up next to your devoted lover and realize you just sleep-fantasized about getting sexy with someone else. It’s embarrassing, but you roll over and sheepishly admit it was innocent (and maybe even enjoyable).
Superhumanoids’ debut album, Exhibitionists, is like that. Whether you’re going on four years steady or trolling OkCupid nightly, Exhibitionists will hit you like a guilty post-dream high. You let go of present drama and indulge in whatever falsehood your brain feeds you; it really doesn’t get anymore dream-pop than that. The signature snare drum intro, the cosmic synth, and a maundering Morrissey neophyte pining away for femme fatales: Exhibitionists has it all.
But Exhibitionists is a lot more than the soundtrack to a cheesy ’80s cult flick. Since their 2010 inception, Superhumanoids have managed to strategically incorporate popular musical tropes of the oft-romanticized Generation X into their own sound. You have your steep and steady bassline coupled with looping synth hooks that, together, shimmer in their repetition. It’s to a solid pop track what instant powder mix is to lemonade. Superhumanoids’ quickie pop fix increases in appeal though, when garnished with the revivalist vocals of Sarah Chernoff and Cameron Parkins.
Like mod gals Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX, Chernoff is a Madonna-wannabe who pulls it off, while Parkins sounds like he just graduated from Tears For Fears University. Chernoff’s soliloquy “Too Young For Love” has her posing as a mall rat putting the bangle back into jangle-pop. Parkins deflects poser tags by having, as Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Jim Reid did, an idiosyncratic lilt of his own. His lyrics are like a game of Telephone: you hear individual words but you’re groping for the whole phrase.
The pair’s vocal styles elicit such blunt comparisons partially because Chernoff and Parkins never emphatically collaborate throughout Exhibitionists. In “Geri,” a song that comes and goes like an idealistic dream ending too soon, Parkins sings the verses while Chernoff owns the chorus. When Chernoff arrives to interject, “Time won’t wait for either of us/We don’t belong,” it’s difficult to decipher whether she’s his confidant, or whether she’s the girl who’s been cut loose. There’s no affection or bitterness in either Chernoff’s or Parkinson’s lukewarm delivery to suggest they’re flirting or combating with one another—the emotions are vague and unnameable.
As much as Superhumanoids recall the retro, their themes can be applied to the iPhone generation. While romantic but now increasingly dated lines like “See the note she wrote to me” are present, Exhibitionists resonates with intrinsic essence of youth via a unique compilation of dance numbers. The juxtaposition of chimerical synths coated with heavy-hearted lyrics conjures the realization that, in youth and in love, most things are fleeting. Looming over the shimmering house tracks is a reminder that most party flirting will ultimately lead to heartbreak or disappointment. It’s drama twistedly encapsulated in fun, and vice versa.