CLAUD Explores the Vivid Normalcy of Genderqueer "Monstrosity" in Debut LP, 'SUPER MONSTER'
By River Stone
“I'm turning 21 in a couple months / And I heard that life gets easier / Hope this shit gets breezier”
Sexualities and gender identities that veer even slightly from cis and straight have been vilified for ages. Themselves a nonbinary and queer super monster, Claud offers a glimpse into the regularity of such a life.
From the many flavours of queer love to snide-commenting their way through the patriarchy, 'Secret Monster' reflects Claud’s grounded, honest and relatable approach to songwriting. Written primarily in their childhood bedroom in Chicago, this debut LP is infused with gritty guitar and dreamlike instrumentals that allow the 21-year-old’s simple and memorable storytelling to shine. Claud kicks things off with a tale of consummation in the track Overnight that will be hilariously familiar to anyone who’s perhaps rushed into a romantic connection. The first words on the album, “I fell in love like a fool, overnight”, are paired with a simple drum beat and guitar, as well as ethereal synth effects, which all together give listeners a direct and immediate insight into the playful and heartful style of this genderqueer artist. And this is exactly what they intended. As Claud stated to Apple Music, “I liked the idea of a warning as a first song. Like, ‘Here's a heads-up: A lot of these songs are love songs, and I tend to jump into things.”
It’s not long, however, before we get a glimpse of the more challenging aspects of Claud’s romantic life. In fact, the second track, 'Gold', seems to outline a visceral betrayal in the artist’s life, where they challenge the subject: “don’t say you were there when you weren’t, cause I don’t think you were there when I was hurting”. Through their writing, the young musician is learning to come to terms with the fact “that this person was not there for [them] when [they] needed them, or these people were not there for [them] when [they] need them”, yet Gold is arresting in its catchy synth riffs, energizing high-hat-like accents, and delightfully danceable chorus. It feels like an anthem, a cathartic release that simultaneously allows for an honest look at the heart’s predicament while also tapping into empowerment and assertiveness that can be difficult to muster.
We are lucky enough to get another glimpse at Claud’s spicier side with the compellingly titled 'That’s Mr. Bitch To You'. In it, the artist recounts an encounter in which they counter someone’s insult with the fabulous quip. “I just feel like one of the most offensive words that a man could call somebody who's essentially not a man is a bitch,” they tell Apple Music but they don’t let that stop them, facing this harasser with the lyric “I’m stronger than you thought / bet you didn’t know I won’t let a straight man throw me off”. This quick-witted confidence is akin to the strength demonstrated in Gold but in a different context, holding a distinct fervour.
That said, Claud is also no secret to tenderness, as is most clearly demonstrated through the final track on this stunning debut, 'Falling with the Rain'. Much simpler than the rest of the album, Claud’s lamenting is supported by a simple electric guitar strum, contained by a delicate electronic ambiance. “I know sometimes I start falling with the rain / Give me some time so I can fall back into place / Feeling out of my head / Coming undone thread by thread / I know sometimes I start falling with the rain,” they share woefully with listeners, giving vivid descriptions of the dismantling we can feel when we’re struggling. Featuring their new quarantine project, 'Shelly', this final track, although heartening in its despair, is uplifting both through its instrumentation and the support of Claud’s best friends. Thusly, we have traveled throughout various areas of this young artist’s life, noting the landmarks of various forms of love (including self-love in the form of self-assertion) along the way.
This marks an important evolution in Claud’s musical output, distinct in its creative and fun use of samples, such as that of a can of soda being opened on the track 'Pepsi'. For although Claud’s lyrical relatability has been apparent throughout their earlier singles and even in their early project 'Toast' - which was a collaboration with Josh Mehling, who is also a musician and producer for 'Secret Monster' - they take their storytelling skills a step farther with this LP, digging into details and context that we were not necessarily privy to in their earlier work. In 'Secret Monster', it seems we are being invited into Claud’s world, into the cozy retreat of their bedroom, which is in fact where they wrote and revised much of the album before heading to Electric Lady Studios for the final production. This appears to be a guiding principle for Claud, who in an interview with W Magazine stated: “It’s been so hard for me to find proper representation of my own love life… And, I don’t know, if even just one person has a similar life as me hears the record and it reminds them that they can fall in love and have a full-ass life, then I’d be happy, you know?”
Especially in times such as these, where we are all coping with increased isolation, Claud’s dreamy songs feel intimate in their invitation into the world of the artist, a world that is both surreal in its use of unexpected mixing and incredibly relatable in the simplicity of its heartache and longing. In this way, Claud shows us the profound simplicity of living life as a super monster.
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