PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH URBANA ARTS + CULTURE PROGRAM
WITH: LAUREN MAYBERRY + THEON CROSS + MANY MORE
APPEARING: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2023
VENUE: ROSE BOWL TAVERN (OUTDOOR): 106 N. Race Street, Urbana, IL 61801
No matter your age or station, Supermodels is the sort of record you can hear yourself in. Claud’s engrossing, poignant, and often pointedly funny second album is a confident diary of the mercury of life and love. Imagine yourself in a crowded concert hall, singing along to buoyant but frustrated “It’s Not About You” or the beautifully resilient “Spare Tire,” which sublimates old sadness into new winking, wry new strength.. Through the sea of twisted faces, Claud makes eye contact and grins, all sly and sweet and sad. That’s how Supermodels feels—an intimate connection, a chuckle and a sigh, a gift to share amid all this isolating noise.
Claud began Supermodels at the end. In late 2021, they released their winning debut, Super Monster, but soon found life turned upside down by departure, loss, and voids where support networks once stood. So, of course, they started writing, using not only their new acoustic guitar (a rare one, but so desiccated from the city’s winter it wouldn’t stay in tune) and a second-hand upright piano recently wedged inside the apartment (free, but tuned hopelessly down, with multiple missing octaves).
Claud loved these “three-legged animals,” somehow in tune with one another. “A useless mess I call myself/A useless hand that I’ve been dealt,” Claud soon cooed above them on the deceptively spry “All Over,” a song about being able to imagine little but the end. At the close of the moving and mighty farewell exhalation “Screwdriver,” they admit, “I’m thinking about moving out of New York.” Claud had Supermodels’ end; now, for the rest.
Claud’s apartment, with that stubborn acoustic guitar and worn piano, came to articulate a lot of the experiences that underlie Supermodels itself. Fissures in romances and friendships, pressures of recording careers, the casualties of growing up, the laugh lines of life: Each of these 13 songs, as Claud puts it, is another journal entry, threaded together with scant regard for genre but, like the best pop music, with hooks that linger as powerfully as any memory.
Opener “Crumbs” begins with gorgeous infatuation, scenes from their first taste of domesticity, delivered tenderly over soft chords and sparkling electronics. For Claud, this was always a love song, at least until they realized it might actually be a siren’s song. It lures you into its beautiful, happy world, then pulls you deeper toward the dark as you take a second look. Uncertainty permeates “Every Fucking Time,” an anthemic interrogation of a relationship’s terms and conditions that somehow triangulates Avril, Oasis, and Taylor in less than three minutes. As Claud sits in the bar after hours defending Regina Spektor to a partner, they wonder if this other person is all hot air and broken promises—or, just maybe, Claud is overanalyzing another good thing again.
Claud approaches all of Supermodels with new depth and the kind of humor that only comes with undeniable new confidence, rendered in structures and hooks that are deceptively sophisticated. Genre becomes Claud’s playground, an obstacle course full of supposed barriers to climb over and cavort upon. Where Super Monster was rendered mostly in their childhood bedroom, Supermodels was created in Claud’s own space, with a team of confidants and collaborators.
And how could Claud not be more assured, after all, when they collaborated with Dan Wilson of Semisonic, a band they’ve been covering for the better part of a decade? The pair finished several songs together in a feverish session. The cut here, “A Good Thing,” is one of the most guileless and magnetic numbers in Claud’s catalog, a bittersweet sugar rush about wanting to fall all the way into a relationship that seems strong but instead overthinking everything entirely until maybe you ruin what was indeed a good thing. Claud still finds ways to laugh at the situation, the exhausting tedium of dating (“In the kitchen mixing drinks/I’d quit stirring but I’d fall asleep”) and the uneven terrain of figuring it out (“You piss me off, you turn me on”). Maybe the bad parts do make for the best punchlines?
“You caught me looking at photographs of supermodels,” they sing, voice rising slowly over that free and broken piano on “Screwdriver.” “Trying not to cry when I look back at myself.” It’s a staggering little moment, a reminder of the ways we are all working to beat back a dozen different insecurities. But Claud doesn’t hide anything on Supermodels. Here are all the feelings of these last few years, set first to page and then to songs we can all share. They are kernels of despair, redemption, wit, and, ultimately, insight, here to remind us we’re neither the first nor the last to face these blues and keep going.