The Reader Review
Road To Rouen: It's not the length; it's your aim.
Bassist Mick Quinn stated in an interview with the BBC that in the future he "would like the band to take more risks." Singer Gaz Coombes went on to mention that the band had recorded a "self indulgent" album in France before returning home to finish work on the more polished Life On Other Planets. Hints toward a new direction were wrong-footed by the new tracks included on the Supergrass is 10 retrospective as both Bullet and Kiss of Life would have been completely out of place on this new album. But those fans familiar with the demo recordings that were made available on the LOOP mini-site will instantly recognize the feel of this album as being in that vein. The thing I noticed right away about this album is the lack of auto-tuned vocals and instrumental perfection that seems to dominate recent releases by other bands. This sounds very much to me like the sound of Supergrass jamming, warts and all. It's refreshingly human and hopefully will influence others to stop fixing every little thing in ProTools.
Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, Road to Rouen is a brief affair. That said it packs a lot of textures into those minutes. Opener Tales of Endurance has a long intro that recalls Fade In/Out by Oasis of all things! A brief brass section break and then it's straight into an Animals era Pink Floyd section. Of course it still sounds like Supergrass, but you can tell they are trying to do something besides repeat the success of their previous album. Lyrical excerpt:
"We hail commercial suicide kiss the life you've lived behind don't let it bother you. Will you do what it takes to get what you can?"
The St Petersburg single is an excellent barometer for the album although it occupies the second slot here. It's a slow lament for someone who is looking forward to leaving town and is a beautiful song. Sad Girl has a nice Lovin' Spoonful Rhodes piano and sits well in the catalog next to Born Again and Shot Over Hill, while the mid-section has a nice chant of lyrical clichés similar to Prophet 15. This and the epic Roxy seem to be the backbone of the album. Coffee in the Pot is a pisstake in the best way possible. Imagine Supergrass playing Beseme Mucho a' la the Beatles and you won't be far off. I have a feeling drummer Danny Goffey was the instigator of this track, far more in the spirit of the Magic Transistor Radio that the band currently have up on their website for those curious about the progress on their new album. The band's choice of album title may cause some cringing in some circles but the track of same name certainly won't. It has volume swelled guitars and some blues era Fleetwood Mac riffing, but it's pure Supergrass once the acoustic guitars kick in. The end of this song specifically is what led me to feel this is a more jam-oriented album. Lyrical excerpt:
"Follow all the signs and they'll lead us away. It's all good stuff..."
"I just can't get my head around what you want" claims Kick in the Teeth, a more straightforward rocker in the classic tradition. Low C is another relative of previous efforts like Evening of the Day while closer Fin could nearly be 10cc! It's over all too soon as you realize that with new family commitments as well as a supporting tour that you'll have to wait awhile to see where this new direction is heading. I'd compare this album favorably with the other album I got to preview at the time: The Dandy Warhol’s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. Both albums reach back into the bands catalog and influences, but if you are an attentive listener you'll find signs of new inspiration. Roll on Supergrass.
Mo Falkner - 17 July 2005