It may or may not have been their primary aim, but few bands have got up the collective noses of the Irish music industry more than Super Extra Bonus Party. Their crime? Not appearing to take themselves or their competitors seriously (the animal heads, the pyjama stage wear) was a big part of it, all the time building an international reputation before waltzing off with the Choice Music Prize to the obvious disgruntlement of many.
The stage, then, is set for Night Horses, their second album proper after an essentially bedroom recorded debut and last year’s scattergun remix project, with both supporters and detractors readying themselves for the fight. The simple fact though is this – Night Horses is such an astonishingly good record, no make that a great record, that really the debate is closed immediately. It’s hard to remember a recent case of an Irish band so completely finding themselves in the space between a first and second album.
To do it, Super Extra Bonus Party have looked to others to help them realise their vision. The record is littered with guest spots, a clichÃ© for instrumental and electronic bands certainly, but a move that pays off handsomely. The majority of the collaborators come from within these shores, as might be expected, although this works as a celebration of an Irish music scene in full bloom rather than a case of thinking small. Thus three of the last year’s most talked about artists all make appearances. The R.S.A.G. assisted -Who Are You And What Do You Want?’ is just stunning, while -Comets’ takes Heathers out of their acoustic environment and into a world of powering electric guitars. The prospect of a MayKay fronted track was a tasty one but unfortunately her contribution to -Eamonn’ is one of album’s few disappointing moments – a Stooges style garage rocker that promises much but is let down by a vocal that offers little apart from a few screams. Shame.
Yet this, and perhaps the rather aimless Ann Scott track -Sonora’, is the only time when they drop the ball and what is most obvious is just how versatile SEBP have turned out to be. They can do rock, they can do dance and electronica, hell they even have the odd pop tune in there. And when it comes to hip-hop, Night Horses is matchless. Long time friend Cadence Weapon brings his easy flow to -Radar’, Boston rapper Mr Lif brings a commanding presence to -Thin Air’, while Captain Moonlight and White Noise fly the home flag on -Tea Time With Lord Haw Haw’.
So there you have it. Just when you think that And So I Watch You From Afar have weighed in with the most exciting Irish album of the year, SEBP come along and match it. Opening track is called -Super Team Go!’ and, unintentionally or not, the nail is hit firmly on the head. This is the record that the Go! Team could and should have made after their debut. That Super Extra Bonus Party have achieved what they couldn’t will surprise some, delight others and bug a few. Whatever your camp, however, respect is due.
Night Horses megamix