Supergrass were formed in 1993, just around the time when the likes of Blur and Oasis were in the process of gaining traction, which would lead British indie music getting some well deserved chart attention in the mid 1990’s. Supergrass became one of the best of these groups, from their quirky punk debut album I Should Coco, to the acoustic, string laden mature efforts of fifth album Road to Rouen. Whilst working on their seventh album, tentatively titled Release the Drones in April 2010, the band sadly announced their split, which would follow after a series of farewell shows, culminating in a final gig that June in France. Release the Drones remains unreleased and unfinished.
While we wait to see whether or not a reunion takes place, here’s a look back at the bands six albums, ranked from worst to best.
While Supergrass, the self-titled third offering from the band may contain three of their best singles with “Pumping On Your Stereo,” “Mary” and “Moving”, it also has some weaker album tracks, like “What Went Wrong (In Your Head),” “Born Again,” and “Faraway.” The key flaw in Supergras though, is that, as an album, it doesn’t hold together too strongly or flow as well as the rest of their records. Overall, it just falls below their usual standard.
Essential Tracks: Pumping on Your Stereo, Mary, Moving
05. Diamond Hoo Ha
Supergrass decided to follow up their acoustic laden Road to Rouen album with the far more upbeat music of Diamond Hoo Ha. Opening track “Diamond Hoo Ha Man” sets the tone, with it’s infectious distorted guitar riff starting the song and indeed the album in earnest. Elsewhere, the likes of “Bad Blood” and “Whiskey & Green Tea” give Supergrass two of their biggest stompers since “Richard III.” On the lighter side of things, “The Return Of…” is another highlight of the record, with it’s dreamy guitar work and vocals. The music and Nick Launay’s production make for a fine album, even if it isn’t quite up there with the bands best work.
Essential Tracks: Diamond Hoo Ha Man, Bad Blood, The Return Of…
04. Life on Other Planets
Keyboard player Rob Coombes had featured on all Supergrass records preceding their fourth album, but it wasn’t until Life on Other Planets that he officially became a member of the group. His formal addition to the band may very well have served as the catalyst to Planets, which went onto become one of the most interesting albums in their discography. The more prominent feature of keyboards on the LP provides a richer texture than previously seen on a Supergrass album. The single “Grace” could be viewed as a superior counterpart to their previous hit single “Alright.” The keys even lead the band into Pink Floydian psychedelic territory, with the wonderful closing track “Run.” This is not to dismiss the rest of the band though. Gaz Coombes shines vocally throughout as always, and has one of his finest riffs in “Rush Hour Soul.” Meanwhile, bassist Mick Quinn takes lead vocals on “Never Done Nothing Like That Before,” with Danny Goffey providing the pounding, exhilarating drums for this less than 2 minute rocker.
Essential Tracks: Za, Rush Hour Soul, Never Done Nothing Like That Before
03. I Should Coco
Supergrass unleashed themselves upon the world with a debut album loaded with as much energy and frantic musicianship as any pop punk album you could ever listen to. The most famous song from the album is “Alright,” but that is truly the tip of the iceberg. “Caught By the Fuzz,” “Sitting Up Straight” and “We’re Not Supposed To” et al. remain among the finest songs that the band has ever produced. I Should Coco could be compared to Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys. Both are excellent debut albums with frenzied pop punk songs among them. A friend of mine once described Arctic Monkeys as “The Jam on speed.” I think the same sentiment could be applied to Supergrass’ first record.
Essential Tracks: I’d Like to know, Sitting Up Straight, Alright
02. In It for the Money
While that first album could have cast a long shadow and may have caused the sophomore slump so often suffered by musical artists with great debut records, this was thankfully not the case for Supergrass. In fact, they actually managed to surpass I Should Coco with their second positively sublime album In It for the Money. The pop punk of their first LP is substituted for a broader range of songwriting; from the acoustic guitar and piano driven “Late in the Day,” to the old school rock and roll riff of “Tonight,” to the downright weirdness of closing number “Sometimes I Make You Sad.” And that’s not to mention the fucking incredible single “Richard III,” a song that rocks harder than anything from I Should Coco. And that’s no mean feat.
Essential Tracks: Richard III, Tonight, It’s Not Me
01. Road to Rouen
Road to Rouen was recorded as a direct reaction to major difficulties within the band at the time. Firstly, Rob and Gaz Coombes has recently suffered the tragic loss of their mother. Then there was Danny Goffey’s behaviour receiving a lot of unwanted attention from the British tabloids. Information online about Goffey’s personal life at the time is scarce now, but knowing the sort of horrible fucking vultures that work for every last tabloid paper you can think of, I’m sure you can use your imagination as to what was happening. Luckily though, as so often happens in music, through great pain comes great art. Supergrass put out a record that was pretty much the exact opposite of everything they had ever done with Road to Rouen. It’s largely acoustic, often featuring orchestral string accompaniment and features no radio friendly numbers a la “Alright” or “Pumping On Your Stereo.” The gamble of going so far away from what they had made musically up until now paid off though. Road to Rouen is easily their best album. The record is a more mature, emotional and well crafted offering than anything else the band have done. And this is saying a lot for a group with a back catalogue like Supergrass. As much as I loved the band already, I never would have thought of them being capable of making songs as beautiful as “Roxy” or “St Petersburg.” A truly magnificent, highly underrated gem of an album.
Essential Tracks: Roxy, Tales of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6), Low C
The Essential Supergrass Playlist: