State of British music IV: Supergrass, Life on Other Planets
and Road To Rouen
What do you do when you’re in a guitar band and you get sick of making riffs and choruses with three of four pop chords? Every band comes to an impasse of this kind, from Black Sabbath to U2. The options out are pretty simple: you either bring in interesting producers to fiddle and tweak your songsounds, or you write songs with strings and horns in mind, and begin to stretch the format somewhat. Supergrass did the latter. From the punchy high of Life
to the brief but crafted vignettes of Rouen
(which I’ve combined into a killer twofer), the Grass are making interesting pop again, beyond mere 'spot the precursor and have a lark'. The last of the former (the wonderful stoner cut Run
) seems to segue perfectly into the first of the latter. The production is crisp and clever, the instrumentation fresh and broad (with some welcome piano work), the canvas has been stretched and opened, and there ain’t a single flaky moment. Yet it’s distinctively BritPop: easy melodies, clear choruses, good guitar fun; and the sense that George Martin could’ve been involved in the project. And it’s great value at 35 minutes — I agree with shorter albums: greater quality and concentration on fewer songs rather than endlessly sprawling CDs stretched with b-material. I love the sense of containment and sufficiency of such albums: it reminds me of soul records somehow. Have yourself a really super album.