The Press Article
Road To Rouen

The future course of uphill struggle was set after their blistering ‘I Should CoCo’ debut a decade back. The brash teenage exuberance of “Caught By The Fuzz”, “Mansize Rooster” and pop-perfect “Alright” was never going to be equalled however many more centuries they churned out the tunes. Of course they have come close with the sublime “Moving” or naggingly brilliant “Pumping On Your Stereo” but just as the prolific sideburns of Gaz Coombes cannot be stopped, nor can the creative surge of the whole band. So if you can’t match it, then change it.

Containing only 9 tracks, this CD might seem skinny, but it is more about diverging talent than cramming in tunes. However with “Tales Of Endurance” kicking off the album with parts 4, 5 & 6, you do have to wonder where the first three went. But it does herald in their new folkier, more orchestrated sound which is part of the reinvention. Naturally there are still those gravely vocals too (just so you don’t forget whose record this is) but a complete sound takes priority over component players.

The surprise that was “St Petersburg” as a first single now seems completely in place. The laid-back jaunty quality of a tune that oozes sunshine. “Sad Girl” has less of the merriment (obviously) but is equal in charm factor. Another Supergrass trademark is that they can create tracks that are sonically disjointed, but hang together perfectly. “Roxy” has a glob of mood swings, but the string subtleties blending with more traditional guitar work and drumming turns it into a unique 6 minute symphony.

They have always had a playful aspect to all their work too, and the downright flippant quality to the brief and instrumental “Coffee In The Pot” is the threesome at their quirky best. However the title track is not that much more than a promising, unfinished jam session. A good enough experimental romp, but a better one for relegation to a B-sides collection. Faith is restored with “Kick In The Teeth” as the more traditional swagger side of the Grass returns. It may not be “Moving”, but it does show that they’ve not burned all their bridges en route to Rouen.

“Low C” combines their expected pop with less traditional styles. The jangly guitars of old, infused with their newer, lighter, less bombastic approach. Nearly great, but it fizzles out just as it was getting going. But that frustrating quality which leaves them just a shade off brilliant has been ever present since they parted the waves with Coco. Subsequent albums have always contained absolute gems, but also a clutch of the almost nearly not quite so fantastic ones too which dilute the brew. Reoccurring stumbling blocks that prevent them achieving supergroup status.

The lazy, sleepy feel of “Fin” shows that they not only took a bit of the language home with them from their recording sessions across the channel, but also created a slice of French styled ambient pop that would have fitted in just fine on an Air album. Certainly by the time that final track comes around, you are left fairly refreshed and largely content with a change of scene from the lads, yet not totally blown away as it should have been even better. Yes it shows that they can make rather good music without trying too hard, but maybe it’s time to find that extra quality if they are not to be remembered as the always nearly band.

Neil Chase, Music Editor, CD WOW - August 2005