Is Anybody Listening?

Wouldn’t the world would be a better place had some overrated artists never existed at all? And wouldn’t the world be a better place as well had some of our beloved, undervalued artists taken the place of the former?

Bands like: Supergrass

Supergrass were nothing if not consistent. Since 1995, the height of Britpop, the guys in Supergrass have put out a string of great and really great albums, yet they continue to go unheralded but by a few of us ubber-fans. The difference between Supergrass and, say, Oasis, during this time was their utter lack of pretension, superior musical skill and a total obliviousness to what was/is considered ‘cool’.

Their albums were all over the musical map. Shades of Madness, The Sex Pistols, Supertramp, The Stones/Beatles, Kinks, even The Band and Dylan, Big Star and The Monkees and even a hint of prog rock permeated their sound, sometimes all in one song. They didn’t bow to the alter of one particular genre and never gave a damn about trends. That wasn’t a very popular stance as far as the NME and Melody Maker was concerned, especially as a band in Britain during the mid 90’s. It was like they were unofficially blacklisted from the music press because of it.
By contrast Blur were trying to re-invent the serious character studies of Ray Davies and the Kinks, Oasis were all faux snarls and Beatle-barons, The Happy Mondays were now just football hooligans with heroin habits. But The ‘Grass were just plain fun, idly side stepping the trappings of fame with gusto and conviction. Case in point: Steven Spielberg famously offered the three boys the chance to star in their very own Monkees style TV show, reportedly for a boatload of cash, which they promptly declined.

They followed up the debut with one of the finest albums of the 90’s, the Zappa aping In It For The Money. I.I.F.T.M is a sprawling album that is comprised of a veritable cornucopia of genre exercises. You would think that an album this schizophrenic wouldn’t work, but it does. From the psychedelic title track to the adrenalin rush of Richard III and Sun Hit’s the Sky, to the introspective and beautiful Late In The Day, this album blows away that great English tradition of following up a great debut album with a sub par sophomore effort.

They stumbled slightly with 1999’s self titled long player, but it still contained some fine songs in Jesus Came From Outer Space and classic Pumpin’ On Your Stereo.

Life On Other Planets was a great album and one of my personal favorites, although by this time I think I was the only one listening. It’s a shame, ’cause LOOP is one helluva fine LP full of their patented power pop pleasures.

They followed with the subdued but effective and “punningly” titled Road To Rouen. It’s a slight but focused 35 minutes and it’s the bands most musically cohesive. Cohesive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great album, but it sure ain’t bad.

Diamond Hoo Ha Man, their last before calling it a day, sounds like a band running out of steam, and the newly initiated shouldn’t start here.

Supergrass were that rarest of mid-90’s British bands inasmuch as they released more than two decent albums, lasted longer than a decade, and don’t sound dated in the least.