Top Ten: Stunning Supergrass Songs
Published on March 9th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Oxford four-piece Supergrass were, in Rocksucker’s book, one of our planet’s truly great bands, so it is with more than a smidgen of anticipation that we await the 21st May release of Gaz Coombes’s debut solo album Here Come the Bombs. To celebrate this impending treat, join us in looking back at ten tracks that helped us along in our way to bestowing such exalted status upon Messrs Coombes, Quinn, Goffey and Coombes. First, though, a taster of Here Come the Bombs…
1. “Mansize Rooster”
Pounding, bouncy, rumbling, breakneck, euphoric early single from Supergrass’s still stunning 1995 debut I Should Coco. Sandwiched in between its more illustrious counterparts “Caught By the Fuzz” and “Alright” in the tracklisting, but trumps both of them in Rocksucker’s book. Gobsmacking to think how young they were at the time, and yet so evident in the relentless, grin-inducing energy.
2. “Sitting Up Straight”
Cropping up on the second side of I Should Coco, “Sitting Up Straight” announces itself with the sound of bells ringing and piano gently chiming, before suddenly bursting into frenzied power-pop perfection. This + “Mansize Rooster” pretty much provided the blueprint for this song, written by yours truly.
3. “Richard III”
A more obvious shout perhaps, but this second track from majestic sophomore effort In it for the Money still takes Rocksucker’s breath away to this very day. While it is for all intents and purposes a pop song, it packs a punch so meaty as to be the envy of many a metal band, and chord progression so delightfully mischievous that even seasoned songwriters have to stand and applaud the sheer chutzpah of it. One of the best songs ever written, simple as.
4. “Sun Hits the Sky”
Again one of Supergrass’s better-known songs, but again so gobsmackingly monumental that it fully merits the reaffirmation. If In it for the Money has a fault, it is that some of its tracks provide such energising rushes of elation that it casts their very-fine-indeed counterparts into unwarranted shade. Anyway, altogether now: “I am a doctor…” (Rocksucker would also like to add that, to this day, we’ve still never come across a better-smelling CD booklet than that of In it for the Money; heck, it’s even ruffled, thus feeling and looking good too. You don’t get that with yer MP3s, nosiree.)
The band’s eponymous third album may not receive quite as many plaudits as its predecessors, but it nevertheless sits proudly alongside them both as a shining example of a great band at the peak of its powers. “Eon” is a not only a good indicator of the album’s air of fluid introspection, it’s also a gorgeous, mesmerising and uplifting slice of psychedelia. Could have fit snugly onto Abbey Road without anyone so much as batting an eyelid.
6. “Jesus Came from Outta Space”
Supergrass again showing their flair for distilling sheer joy into pop song form. Perhaps the band and/or record label feared a Christian backlash, perhaps “Pumping on Your Stereo”, “Moving” and “Mary” just made more sense as singles at the time, but this should have been the kind of institution-unto-itself that gets played on the radio forever more, whatever the style of the time. Think “Oliver’s Army”, “Stuck in the Middle With You” or “Virginia Plain”; this is as good as any of them, and even manages to infuse some strangely soleful wistfulness into its brilliant melodic hooks. Of the band’s contemporaries, only Super Furry Animals could match them for this sort of thing.
Onto fourth album Life on Other Planets, which disappointed insomuch as it seemed to jettison much of the ambition laid bare on its predecessors, yet still a sufficiently ingenious and exhilarating collection of power-pop songs to consolidate Supergrass’s position at the top of their particular class. This opening track is a shining exemplar, a piano-powered would-be David Bowie classic that arguably sets the bar a bit too high for a record which for the most part could conceivably be a compilation of the band’s b-sides (and they habitually made killer b-sides, so that’s not as sniffy an assessment as it may seem).
8. “Evening of the Day”
Popping up midway through Life on Other Planets, piano is again at the forefront but this time as an accessory to a minor-key not-quite-lament about “a parting of the ways”. Wielding a masterfully controlled vocal from Mick Quinn, and a rather splendid walking bass solo, “Evening of the Day” begins encoding itself into your DNA before it even reaches its cheekily monged second section, which naturally seals the deal in the hands of these roguishly inclined virtuosos. There only seems to be this demo version on YouTube, so hunting down the original is advised…
To make up for the absence of the proper version, we’ll give you this other choice cut from Life on Other Planets; namely, “Never Done Nothing Like That Before”…(warning: you absolutely must be ready to rock before clicking play here)…
9. “Low C”
Onto 2005’s lush, stately mini-epic Road to Rouen, this penultimate track passed relatively unnoticed as a single release, but offered rich rewards to those who were lured in by its nostalgically bittersweet trot and supreme harmonies. Perhaps the most arresting moment on a sporadically beautiful record, and the kind of understated yet evocative song that could at the right moment bring a tear to the eye without you really knowing why.
10. “Rebel in You”
This single from 2008 swansong Diamond Hoo Ha would in any fair universe have scored a big, fat hit, and a thoroughly deserved one at that. File alongside “Jesus Came from Outta Space” as a number which, given the opportunity, could have been not only ubiquitous but one of those rare songs of which ubiquity is truly becoming. There’s so much to love here, and it came as a sure-fire indicator that the songwriting force is still precociously strong within Supergrass.
Now, bring on The Bombs!
Here Come the Bombs, the debut solo album by former Supergrass front man Gaz Coombes, will be released on 21st May through Hot Fruit Recordings. The album is preceded by a single, “Hot Fruit”, released on May 14. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.gazcoombes.com
Gaz Coombes has announced the following UK dates…
Saturday 24th March 2012 – East Oxford Community Centre, Oxford, UK
Friday 20th April 2012 – KOKO, London, UK
Tuesday 24th April 2012 – Barfly Camden, London, UK
Thursday 10th May 2012 – The Great Escape 2012, Brighton, UK