Supergrass: Rouen? Nope - autoroute to Coolville
We live in the world run by conglomerates for whose convenience and marketing reasons the global souk must be treated like a homogeneous entity. Changes within must be so subtle to be imperceptible so not to scare the customers: on mass cultural level it is the logic behind Hollywood’s remaking old movies, music dipping into nostalgia as the only source of inspiration… With majority addicted to the crap like Big [f**king deal!] Brother for the simple reason to laugh at the maggots without realising they are reflected in those sad and pathetic little exhibitionists who can‘t even pronounce decorum…
Kwuality is misspelt as often as the kultchur… Supergrass were a fun band at one point but it is tough being ‘juveniles’ churning out infantile ditties [not that’s anything wrong with it - if you act your shoe size!] and the Oxford quartet find themselves on a crossroads between [their] potential, creative ambition and market demands. ‘Road To Rouen’ is a mature-cum-sober offering that has more in common with The Kinks [occasionally the latter day Beatles] rather than the Supergrass of yore.
Gaz Coombes is a teenager no more and he embraces it with aplomb, vigour and curiosity and the result is a stunning album that certainly has little in common with the current guitar-based outfits in tight-trousers and skinny ties. The band’s advanced heaps and the evidence comes as soon as the opening track is located by laser: ‘Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)’ is like lowering yourself into a heated pool sited in Norwegian Wood.
‘Sad Girl’ makes you think of John Lennon, ‘Roxy’ is laden with strings and ending in a sonic ‘chaos’ your brain [or whatever is left of after all the binge-drinking/drugging/hyping] will struggle to reconcile this with a band that stood for frivolous, humorous, fun… Curious rhythms permeate ‘Coffee In The Pot’, that is actually an instrumental with some Ruskie-like ‘chorus’ and it is a loveable break before the titular tracks kicks in a sort of Thin Lizzy-esque mould without any actual plagiarising. It is also a funky mutha [a nod to Sly & The Family Stone, perhaps] with an interesting break although it sustains the newly-found - restraint.
Whereas once exuberance and youthful ‘Grass fuelled reality were their tonal currency, it’s become more thoughtful… Alas, the track feels too short at under 4 minutes and I could have done with twice as much. ‘Kick In The Teeth’, despite its yobbish nomenclature, is delivered with sonic moderation, again. ‘Low C’ is piano-led swooning song and ‘Fin’ is an exquisite track that brings proceedings to an ethereal end with its peculiar combination of West-Coast and psychedelic-folk of the Led Zepp vintage.
A decade on from [re]inventing buzzsaw pop, the band’s fifth album is intriguing, adventurous, distinctive, defiant, exigent… It balances acoustic and energetic-cum-sophisticated material more importantly and succinctly than Foo Fighters on their recent double offering ‘In Your Honour’. Erm, so concisely that all nine tracks offer the aural journey of only over 35 minutes!?
‘Road To Rouen’ is a brilliantly brave album at the time when blandness, dumbness and rip-off school are harvesting the fields of fame; the only possible flow could be its title in the world with no sense of humour-but-crass: a lot will find it pretentious but - the album was recorded in Normandy after all - we think it is just quirky, clever, playful, an ace pun. The enormous question is whether there is enough public who still can appreciate such qualities… [We bloody hope so for their as well as our benefit.]