Life On Other Planets
Supergrass is one of those bands that remain under-appreciated at the same time that their music is maturing and getting better and better.
The British pop/punk band emerged in 1995 with a left-field hit in "Alright," an instantly catchy and swinging song that garnered some attention with their first album and an inclusion on the "Clueless" soundtrack.
Just as soon as the band gained recognition, though, with their youthful curiosity in their inspirations-The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Jam and David Bowie to name a few-they felt like maturing, as their second album found them consolidating their inspirations in a more musically proficient, though no less playful sound. Upon release, it was virtually ignored by the public, and Supergrass became something approaching musical hermits, hiding out in their native England while the rest of the world attached themselves to other Brit-pop bands.
While they haven't necessarily been languishing in obscurity, releasing another single three years ago in "Pumping on Your Stereo," one of those feel good hits that you sing along with even after it's stopped playing, they haven't really made advances back into the States. But in listening to their new album, "Life on Other Planets," it is possible that they have made their best album yet, critically as well as artistically.
Like their previous work, "Life on Other Planets" is full of exuberant, punky, poppy and soulful songs that stay in your ears with incredible ease and confidence, but unlike their earlier releases, songs from "Planets" reveal a much more mature and structured sense of songwriting. Supergrass had always wanted to be taken seriously, even when they wore their influences on their sleeves as proudly as they did. On "Planets" they mesh those influences together perfectly and sound like nothing less than Supergrass.
Songs like "Grace," a surefire hit, "Brecon Beacons" and "Prophet 15," reveal unforeseen layers of beauty and musicianship, with gorgeous harmonies and ringing guitars adding to sound. Others like "LA Song" and "Seen the Light" feel like they're straight off the streets of New York, with a classic swagger and a sprawling urban-like quality that makes them seem all at once tough, sexy and mean.
Many bands these days have reveled in the "everything old is new again" aesthetic that has become popular via The Strokes, The Hives and The Vines.
Supergrass, however, is different, as listening to "Planets" never feels like a retread into the past, but rather a weird, druggy ride from those influences into the future. It's the sort of album that ranks as a major artistic statement, one that might not push them back into the spotlight, and yet, it's all the better for them, because this album is supremely confident, always reminding the listener about the joyfulness of making music, but never once allowing them to think that their best days are behind them.
Jon Allen, Ripon College Days - 29 January 2003