The Press Article
Supergrass Is 10
The essential hits of Oxford's loveable mop-tops
Somehow one of the greatest bands in recent memory slipped under the radar. What happened? First there was an excellent second album that was largely ignored in a year that also brought us Radiohead's 'OK Computer', Spiritualized's 'Ladies And Gentlemen...' and The Verve's 'Urban Hymns'. And the next two, rather lukewarm, albums limped in the direction of a diminishing fanbase. Supergrass haven't looked all that super for some time.
But this isn't an album of new songs. It's a collection of singles. And, bloody hell, what a belting singles band Supergrass are. There is not one band in the last 15 years with a collection of singles as fresh, sparky and consistent as the 18 (and three bonus tracks) songs here.
Of course Supergrass are derivative, from the classic rock riffing of 'Sun Hits The Sky' to the Madness-madness of 'Mansize Rooster' and the Bolan boogie of 'Seen The Light'. But they never sound like 'let's record this with valves and paper cups' retro retards. they play with the freshness of people who've 'just invented this great new thing called 'music', you should try it, it's great'.
And it's stunningly great. There are the bona fide classic pop singles that everybody and their mum loves: 'Alright' and 'Pumping On Your Stereo'. The contemplative mini-epics with poppy hooks: 'Going Out' and 'Late In The Day'. And then the poppy rock of 'Lenny' and 'Rush Hour Soul'. Put this CD in your PC and Gracenote will tell you that this music is 'Alternative'. Bollocks. It's pop. And pop that will last longer than almost anything ever injection-moulded into life by 19 Management.
Supergrass' less-than-legendary status isn't that mysterious. There is one thing that they simple do not do: cool. You can't imagine any of their Britpop contemporaries portraying themselves as stretchy-limbed Muppets as Supergrass did on the video to 'Pumping On Your Stereo'. Liam would throw a strop, Damon wouldn't do it darling and Jarvis' arms are already long enough, thank you very much. But Supergrass don't need cool because they have confidence. Not the bluff swagger of the self-doubting, the confidence of a band that know damned well that they're good and just get on with it.
The surprising thing about Supergrass is that they're actually a bit weird. They sound so goddamn normal, so unselfconscious, that their oddness goes unrecognised. Take 'Going Out'. It's a repeated chorus with an instrumental break. It's not a song. Take 'Alright'. We all know it as intimately as we know the taste of toast. But again, where's the verse> It's the simplest of melodies repeated ad infinitum with a middle eight (that's actually only about two bars long) and a Hank Marvin guitar solo. And then there's their magnum opus, 'Moving'. In less capable hands the combination of a mournful, sweeping ballad and a depressed glam stomp would sound lumpen and contrived. In Supergrass' hands it's just right.
Turning to the two obligatory new tracks: 'Bullet' is a slightly gothic rocker in the manner of 'Richard III' while new single 'Kiss Of Life' is a slight departure recalling early-'80s Talking Heads with a U2-like verse. Neither of them are essential, but neither do they detract from the collection as a whole.
Supergrass, sorry we haven't called in a while, please stay with us and be our little, bouncy, mutton-chopped songsmiths forever.
James Snodgrass, NME - 05 June 2004