The Press Article
Road To Rouen
The Middle Men
Ten years in and greatness still eludes them.
Can this really be only Supergrass's fifth album? It feels as if the Oxford band have been around forever, slowly but surely surviving Britpop, gradually maturing, with the only big change being the addition of Gaz Coombes's brother, Robert, on keyboards. Yet last year's Supergrass Is 10 anniversary compilation drew from just four albums, and it's been three years since Life On Other Planets. Perhaps Danny Goffey and partner Pearl's wife-swapping takes up more time than you'd imagine.
Gaz and Mick Quinn don't seem the types to go in for that sort of thing. When Coombes announced that the nine songs on Road To Rouen - pun courtesy of the studio in Normandy where the album was recorded - were the product of "trying times", he was referring to the recent death of his mother, rather than the effort involved in trying to cop off with Jude Law. Unsurprisingly then, Road To Rouen is a melancholy affair.
But, while the depth of the band's musicianship and production skills continues to impress, Road To Rouen feels emotionally blank. If Gaz Coombes is in pain, his angle, as always, is stoicism. So, while the album's most conventional indie rocker Kick In The Teeth begins with a smart metaphor "A kick in the teeth makes it hard to smile", the song wends its Beatle-esque way to the conclusion that, "There's no point in crying/So I just keep on trying". Fine sentiments for a relegated football manager. A dull dead end for conveying emotion in your art. All of this makes Road To Rouen the most frustrating good album of the year. because, while you can't help but admire the Ry Cooper-meets-Franz Ferdinand ambition of opener Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6), or respond with affection to the reinventions or Tex-Mex and funk rock that are Coffee In The Pot and the title track, or enjoy Gaz's excavation of John Lennon's vocal style, the album is stopped short of brilliance by the lack of emotional risk. Road To Rouen could have been Supergrass's masterpiece. Instead they once more fall short.
Garry Mulholland, Q - September 2005