The Press Article
Third album from the scampish Oxford trio
WHEN the guitar-driven pop of the Nineties is finally assessed, will the dour Beatlemetal of Oasis or the superconscious Kinks-isms of Blur really be seen to measure up to Supergrass? At the top of their game. their elusive, individually blended brand of high-energy pop-rock is so good, so deeply satisfying, they do indeed make you feel sad for the rest.
1995's I Should Coco remains one of the all-time wondrous debuts. Thrillingly precocious brat-punk with a perpetual erection, rolling a heap of Seventies records into a huge spliff and - far from some woozy, secondhand experience - turning out a dazzling firework show. and what made it doubly loveable was that they didn't make a deal of it. No winking, no post-modern smirks, just a love of music, spunky exuberance and sheer instinctive firepower.
The huge summer hit, "Alright", became a bit of a millstone. Interest from the tabloids (Gaz's new haircut), advertising (Gaz was offered a Calvin Klein contract) and Hollywood (Spielberg talked of basing a TV series around them) failed to interest them. "We're really an albums band," they would complain, Really? Shouldn't make such fantastic singles then.
The superb 1997 follow-up, In It For The Money, opted for emotional and musical wide-screen, and was an astonishing leap of maturity. But with the singles. "Going Out" and "Richard III", baring their teeth (still clean, but sharp) and the plus-horn section live shows being perceived in some quarters (that is, theirs) as distinctly dodgy, the expected global domination didn't quite occur.
The first single from the new album shows that pop hookery verging on stupidity is still part of their repertoire, And it's with the advent of "Pumping On Your Stereo" (we can hear you singing "humping", naughty boys) that your reviewer must confess to disappointment. This, along with the limp Iggy/Mott-esque "Jesus Came From Outer Space", proves that such blatant Diamond Doggerel doesn't become them; they're better than that.
Happily, the remainder of Supergrass intrigues as ever. Their records have always been full of Great Bits - pulse-racing intro ("Tonight"), guitar solo ("Late In The Day"), wayhey change of tempo ("Mansize Rooster"). on-a-sixpence harmonic turn (everywhere) - but some of this record sounds like a series of Great Bits bolted together.
"Shotover Hill" opens with a central motif explained on backward electric guitar, an assertive timpani frames the creepy Stones-esque verse, the chorus features a rug-pull of a chord changer and the fade has mandolin, acoustic and slide guitar dancing around the opening motif. "Aeon" unfolds and dissolves to a meticulous, mesmerising wall of Brian May-esque guitars, the song itself merely eight bars of ethereal funk teasingly repeated three times in the middle. "Mary" cycles three chords for four minutes - for the tight, nasty verse ("I've got a girlfriend and her name is Mary/I like to shock her on a basis daily") and the splashy, lyric-free chorus. These songs are fragments, but they're splendid tracks.
Of the rounded compositions, the opener, "Moving", is a remarkable piece of ripened pop, a deliciously floating verse and a fat head-bobber of a chorus. "Beautiful People" reprises the "Alright" groove, puts it in the minor and borrows some of Lennon's "#9 Dream" chords for an altogether more complex, jaundiced observation than their famous hit.
Supergrass is not quite the masterpiece they threaten. There are too many moments here where lucidity doesn't quite penetrate the herbal haze, and their cavalier cockiness now sits a little uncomfortably next to their considerable achievements, But they're still out on their own. I wish I was in this band.
Kit Aiken, UNCUT - October 1999