Super J Lounge
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Childhood chums Stuart Smith and Don Brosnan migrated from Tucson, Arizona to London in the late 1990s and formed the mighty Super J Lounge, enlisting Londoners Tim Hughes and Sten Stenhouse. Their quaint desert hometown just couldn’t contain their blend of smart-pop hooks and lovely acoustics, their ear-bending electronics, atmospherics and driving rock.
Running With the Boss Sound
Some called Super J’s sonics a mad blend of Americana-Electronica-indie-krautrock-psych (what?). There was lots of music press comparisons; Galaxy 500 to Sparklehorse to Yo La Tango to Spiritualized to Red House Painters and on and on and on… The eclectic quartet’s live shows were filled with as many pop stars as punters to witness their Velvet’s Plastic Inevitable visually influenced performances; once reviewed “as exciting as finding a £20 note down the back of your sofa when you are absolutely skint.”
New Boots and Contracts
Super J issued their first two singles on mightily hip Fierce Panda Records, and a third on V2 subsidiary Blue Dog Singles Club just after signing a lucrative publishing deal with Creation, the coolest song house on earth. Hell, even Brian Eno, unable to twiddle the knobs due to previous commitments, weighed in selecting not only the tracks for their debut album but the running order. Super J’s seemingly unstoppable ascension continued as an enviable number of record labels, major and minor, wined and dined the quartet and the offers started to roll in causing the NME to comment that “Super J Lounge’s future looked so bright they would, indeed, need to wear shades.”
Enter ex-pat catastrophes after a high-spirited rip to Amsterdam spelt doom for Super J. Unruly customs officers eventually let Brosnan go but booted Smith back to the States due to visa problems, taking a year for him to wrangle his return. Worse, the band hadn’t yet decided which label to sign with leaving the Super J in limbo-land, offers eventually wiped from the table. Gone too were tour supports for Sparklehorse and Mercury Rev.
Lost in the Supermarket
Creation, in their last days, helped Super J launch Pima County Records, which, in January 2000, released their debut, aptly named Finally… Its music is airy, elegant and instantly hypnotic but also big-guitar punchy. Smith’s deceptively tender wordplay and vocals lift choruses, and each listen reveals new secrets hidden within its organic and electronic crevices.
Unfortunately, the deportation and lost momentum killed Super J’s spirit causing the band to break up on the day they completed their unreleased second album. The stunning Playground wasn’t recorded for posterity—it begins musically where the debut left off and is the last convincing evidence Super J Lounge was destined for greatness.
Playground will see its first light of day with a 2017 release, along with a timely reissue of the criminally overlooked Finally… Also, Smith and Brosnan rounded up enough demos and B-sides to fill up a third release.
Today Smith’s company Thundering Jacks provides his state-of-the-art visuals for a range of arena-filling pop stars while Brosnan plays bass in art-pop combo The Real Tuesday Weld. Hughes mans the kit for garage pop/punk band Limozine, and Stenhouse was last seen clutching his Gibson SG as he disappeared deep into the New Forest in Southern England.