Always Never Again is proof that the stats on paper don’t always match up to reality. Supersystem is simply Washington, D.C.’s El Guapo with a new name (apparently El Guapo the Latin-tinged rock band from from Chicago didn’t appreciate the competition), a new label (Touch and Go) and a new member (Josh Blair on drums), but the band has somehow managed to put together a not-very-appealing debut. Always Never Again comes on the heels of a string of decent El Guapo albums, but what we get here is a sometimes enjoyable but mostly spotty album that ranges from being a little hokey to being downright cumbersome.
“Defcon” takes the electronic tendencies the group let flourish on El Guapo’s ultimate release, 2003’s Fake French, to the worst possible conclusion, allowing them to go fucking crazy. Things are better when the band takes the “less is more” approach, like on opener “Born Into the World.” The track has a splendid electronic backbone that inches along slowly, allowing the group to control the song rather than the song controlling it. By the time things reach their apex, the band is able to demonstrate its strengths mixing the dance thing in with the rock thing without getting out of hand.
That balance is also struck on “Miracle,” which is mired in the album’s middle and hints at the song structure of 1997’s Burden of History EP. This song isn’t entirely reminiscent, but it does serve as an effective bridge between the band’s two eras.
With all the tools to succeed, Supersystem just barely gets by on Always Never Again. When the band comes up all stars, such as on the album’s opener, it’s an engaging listening experience. But too often, Always Never Again suffers from the pitfalls of merging genres. And the results are messy and annoying.