Supergrass - Road to Rouen

2006-03-30 06:20
 

Though the Supergrass hype never truly made the jump to the nether territories (Australia, the US, and importantly, South Africa), they've managed a respectable career of singles over ten or more years (check out 2004's career retrospective, Supergrass is 10 - best of 94-2004.).

It seems that with Road to Rouen, Supergrass challenged themselves to break that 'also-ran' stigma, by simultaneously returning to indie beat roots and updating production values to rival that of Oasis' more elaborate efforts.

On "Tales of Endurance", for example, the old soul influences once heard on The Charlatans' records peep eerily through modern funk guitar riffs, while early Britpop is even more evident on the Troggs-ish "St. Petersburg".

There's a generous helping of additional instrumentation - perhaps demonstrating an intention to make this album a statement of artistic rather than commercial intent.

The string accompaniments on several tracks are superbly arranged, and enhance Gaz Coombes' practised but otherwise unspectacular vocal delivery.

Other standout moments include the strangely Radiohead-ish "Sad Girl" and a old-style rocker called "Kick In The Teeth" which extend the broad spectrum of sounds and moods. It's really hard to see Road to Rouen as anything but a "true album" - meaning: one which tries to reflect myriad ideas and emotions, rather than trying to be a single mesmeric commercial artefact.

Not surprisingly, Road to Rouen has caught old Supergrass fans off-guard. Any band with an established track record is likely to tick off old followers with a change of direction. But, if you can hear the album as a non-fan of old Supergrass, you'd probably be impressed by the depth and variance of their musicianship. Where fans of Oasis or Pulp would have bought Supergrass records before 2004, maybe fans of The Divine Comedy or even late Blur might now.

- Anton Marshall

WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:

Supergrass have outlasted most of their contemporaries and still have it in them to make a truly amazing masterpiece. Unfortunately Road To Rouen is not quite it.
- Ian Wade for BBC.co.uk

...no great revelations are waiting - Road to Rouen is just four guys making neo-glam rock, chilled, minus the incidental excesses...
- Zeth Lundy for Popmatters.com


Supergrass have always been mainly a singles band - check out their compilation Supergrass is 10 for a great summary of their career. But they return with a surprisingly good album. And what's more, Road to Rouen is actually an album, not just a collection of songs with a sure chart topper tucked inside it.

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