SUPERBLOOM is the most recent MisterWives album, and it packs just as hard a punch as anything they’ve ever made before, leaning on their classic sonic landscape and some new emotional territory. At their worst, though, the band leans too hard into their happiness, moving too quickly from tragedy to upbeat positivity, like your mom telling you that everything is going to be all right in the end. The sharp relief of the supposed SUPERBLOOMing from barren desert to warm, lush jungle doesn’t come through. The marketing narrative of album didn’t translate: there is not enough lingering on the tragedy, so the triumph means less.
The individual lyrics, though, are mostly brilliant and mildly nostalgic, like a younger Robyn. “I see all the embers / they have not yet lost all their glow,” sings Mandy Lee on their jubilantly bitter “whywhywhy.” The whininess is refreshing, the tonality carefully expressed.
MisterWives is energetic enough that the album doesn’t lag, even at its staggering full hour and 19 songs. SUPERBLOOM involves new explorations into electronic bouncing, but unlike many rock bands delving into that kind of territory, MisterWives retains its dynamism. Mandy Lee’s vocal performances are unmatched; her voice is pretty, but she cares much more about all of the exciting things it can do.
But the length of the album means that interplay between songs packs less of a punch than it could. Rather than illuminate the breadth or depth of the band, the sheer number of songs exposes the classic MisterWives formula of blasting choruses and sudden explosions into big vocal harmonies. Sad lyrics aren’t allowed to linger past a single verse; unhappiness is overcome by the second chorus, which is too much narrative motion for just a single song. Even when a song is sad, it feels like a transition, less sonic movement than the other pieces, like as in ‘over the rainbow.’
The visualizations of this album and Mandy Lee’s aggressive excellent style is envy-inducing. But Lee doesn’t need to “fall just to get back up,” as she does in “rock bottom;” she could, if she wanted, fall for real and then emerge.
The darkest SUPERBLOOM dive is in “valentines day.” Mandy Lee calls this song an indulgence in the ‘absolute peak’ of sadness and heartbreak. It’s effective, at least more so than the halfway-explorations of “alone,” which insists that she is ‘so done with solo crying.’ In “valentines day,” Lee walks that back: “so done with crying but it still feels new / it’s only half the truth but it’s still true.”
MisterWives shines, too, in the standout song of the record “decide to be happy.” This is probably because the song seems to represent the core belief of the band: that the good parts of life are just as interesting as the bad. Few bands explore happiness as deeply and expertly as MisterWives does, with just a touch of melancholy.