Supergrass - Road To Rouen
“Don't stop, don't look back” - Kiss of Life - Supergrass is 10.
“Don't look back cos it's far to fall” - Tales of Endurance - Road to Rouen.
Supergrass were one of the first bands I ever became a fan of, at the tender age of 13 or so, and after I rushed out and bought the X-Ray album after hearing Moving on the radio, and then buying In It For The Money and I Should Coco soon after. I've always loved Gaz's voice, and found the band to always sound fresh and fun. I've also always thought that they have a LOT more potential than they may realise. They've always come across as the fun band on cruise-control, making albums full of tight poppy rock songs whilst they could be capable of an absolutely classic album. Life On Other Planets was another step forward for the band, as it finally saw Rob Coombes become a fully fledged member of the band, and not the perpetual guest pianist. The lyrics were still mostly inane, but the actual music had more depth than ever before, due to the more prominent skill of Rob, and album closer Run was possibly their greatest achievement - a mini epic, lush and heartfelt.
The press-release of RtR warns the prospective listener that Supergrass have changed, and warns of completely new sounds, even comparing them to Led Zep. The upcoming acoustic tour also shows a change in the band, suggesting that RtR is going to be a lot mellower and mature. The album art is not silly like all the previous albums were. Are the blurred lights to show that they always moved too fast in the past, and that it's now time to chill out on records? The press release also tells of how they have been supporting the snore-fest that is Coldplay on tour, which whilst it may be good for exposure, is still a travesty that after 12 or so years, they are still a support band. Supergrass, have never shaken off their early image of an inane bunch of teens, and the record-buying public has never given the respect nor recognition they deserve after completely changing their sounds time after time, yet are remembered to the majority of people as 'that band that wrote that song about keeping your teeth clean… Alright….and that ruddy annoying song about humping on yer stereo'.
The album starts out with an acoustic riff which is repeated whilst Rob's keys swirl around it, and it's all rather upbeat and happy, and refreshing. It's kinda like a Franz Ferdinand riff that's not annoying. St Petersburg, is perhaps a very strange choice for a single as it's most certainly a grower, a piano and acoustic guitar track that could be easily described as 'mellow', and is essentially a Supergrass song stripped completely bare - the familiar backing 'ooohs' are still present, as is their songwriting style. But when you remember that this is from the band who released Pumping… just to piss people off, it's not so strange after all. Sad Girl is more familiar Supergrass, slightly more beefed up guitar sounds, Rob's organs and synths, and more 'ooohs', but Gaz's voice sounds much more mature. If this was made heavier it would easily belong on their other albums. Roxy gets beefier again, and the acoustic-heavy songs start to wane as the familiar Supergrass thumping bass interspersed with the organ are back, yet it's still laid-back and summery with lots of gorgeous synths, and the overall mood is kinda similar to Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and the last few minutes of the song are some of the most musically interesting parts of their career to date.
Coffee in the Pot is a fun little tune, fun little riffs and shouts of 'hey' and some funky bass. It's only a fun little throwaway song, and is a good little fun intro to build up to the mighty highlight of this album. I think it'd be impossible for Supergrass to make an album that was entirely serious (dance of the mashed potato anyone?) Road to Rouen is possibly the best song Supergrass have written yet. - the title track of the album, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Musically, it reminds me of Led Zeppelin, with a tight rhythm section and nifty guitar licks, whilst the vocals are kinda classic rock-esque, in Gaz's new style. Like most of this album, the lyrics seem kinda reflective, but they're delivered in an anthemic strong way that many indie bands attempt but fail often fail to execute. Kick in the Teeth isn't great, but the album has now definitely lost it's acoustic-heaviness. It's a very typical Supergrass song; winding riff, tight rhythm, and Gaz drifting over the top with a solid and catchy chorus. The breakdown at the end of the song is damned cool. Low C sees the sees the album begin to wind down again after a series of heavier songs, and the acoustic comes back out. It is more of a traditional Supergrass acoustic track - more upbeat, yet the lyrics are certainly some of the most introspective on the album (though that doesn't stop Danny throwing in some 'yows' in the background). Album closer Fin is a very sad ballad, emotive and mournful. 'they're in the other world to where you lie…. Say goodbye… it's a long way home'.
In conclusion, this may well be Supergrass' best release yet, depending on your tastes of course. The album appears to be comfortable in that it does not sound forced at any point, and is just right for the band at this point. If you've always liked Supergrass for fun, inane pop songs, then you may not adore this album, whereas if, like myself, you've always been a fan of every aspect of Supergrass' sound, you will enjoy this album, and if you're willing to put in the effort and give it multiple repeat listens, then you'll find this a highly satisfying and enjoyable album. Is it life-changing? No. Will it be hailed as a classic album? No. Will you enjoy it? Yes.