Tag Archives: Supergrass

Rocks In The Attic #426: Supergrass – ‘I Should Coco’ (1995)

RITA#426I’ve been waiting a bloody long time to get my hands on a vinyl copy of this – my original pressing of In It For The Money has always been very lonely next to so many Supertramp records, and I finally have a companion piece for my 7” of Alright / Time.

Recently reissued to celebrate the album’s twentieth anniversary, the re-release comes with the record’s original bonus 7” – an energetic blast through Hendrix’s Stone Free, backed with a John Peel session of one of their own songs (the sticker on the front of the record strangely says it comes with a “one sided 7” vinyl” when in fact it’s a standard double-sided 45rpm 7”).

Although I’m more of a fan of album number two, I like I Should Coco more and more with every listen. It sounds like speed, and it’s not hard to imagine how different this sounded at the time compared to all the rest of Britpop’s dull, plodding Indie rock.

Alright? Mansize Rooster? Caught By The Fuzz? It’s choc-full of hits, but for me the real gem of the album is Time. They sound like kids on the rest of the album, but with Time they really display a maturity that’s beyond their (teenage) years. They would write more soulful material like this – Late In The Day from the second album and Moving from the third album are good examples – but their debut record is really all about the energy of their live set.

What’s not to like about Supergrass? A fantastic songwriter in Gaz Coombes, a driving bass player with great backing vocals in Mick Quinn, and in Danny Goffey a madcap drummer from the Keith Moon school of percussion. The only thing not to like is that horrible rumour that Steven Spielberg saw the music video for Alright and wanted to turn the band into a Monkees-style TV experiment.

Most of the first record sounds like it was recorded in one take with very minimal production. It was actually recorded for less than the budget for the Alright video, which is a horrible example of misplaced record company investment.

Hit: Alright

Hidden Gem: I’d Like To Know

Rocks In The Attic #200: Radiohead – ‘The Bends’ (1995)

RITA#200The 200th post in this blog celebrates an album that is probably more important to the development of my musical tastes than any other album in my collection.

In the early ‘90s, when I discovered music for myself – and discovered bands like Aerosmith and AC/DC (that I couldn’t care less if other people liked or not) – I was very much into rock music. I naively thought all other genres of music were a waste of time. I either liked contemporary rock, or classic rock, with a touch of metal and grunge thrown in for good measure.

I then went to University, joined the Rock Society club and found other like-minded people. The rest of the time, I would be drinking in pubs with my classmates, usually dressed in an AC/DC or Led Zeppelin t-shirt, with my shoulder-length long hair; and my classmates would be dressed like normal people. Ugh, who wants to be normal people?

Around this time, and from the time I started listening to music, Indie and Britpop were my enemy. This is partly the fault of the hype surrounding Oasis, and partly the fault of those normal people all around me, like the red-headed chick a year above me in college who just couldn’t fathom that I wasn’t going to the big Oasis gig at Maine Road later that night. Britpop was a club that I didn’t want to join, full of bands like Pulp, who sang about twee nonsense whilst mincing around a stage littered with kitsch charity-shop junk. “Jarvis is really a fantastic social commentator,” I would be told. That’s strange, I thought, he looks like a collector of chintz, singing mediocre songs, backed by a band of average musicians.

(I guess that’s the point I still agree with today. If you listen to rock music, you tend to listen to a better pedigree of musician. The lines have blurred completely, because rock music is now so mainstream, and has been for the past decade, but when I think back to the 1990’s, the Indie or Britpop bands were full of musicians who just couldn’t really play. Noel Gallagher may have started off as a decent songwriter – although it pains me to say it – but his skills on the guitar are very basic. Listen to him solo and he plays the same pentatonic scale every single time. Compare him to somebody like Slash, and there’s just no contest. You may think it’s an unfair comparison, but players like Slash aren’t that uncommon in rock music.)

Anyway, I digress. So, there I am at University, in my second year I think, and it’s getting a little tired listening to rock music all the time. It’s not like I had run out of rock bands to listen to, but there was definitely nothing decent that was coming out by contemporary bands. Bright young rock hopes like The Wildhearts had lost their way and gone all industrial, and Terrorvision had gone completely mainstream, singing about Tequila on Top Of The Pops every week. Then one day I was in the Scream pub in Huddersfield, and somebody put Just by Radiohead on the jukebox.

My whole outlook on music changed instantly. Here was an Indie or a Britpop band, playing something that was just as musically interesting as anything that I had heard in rock music – either in contemporary rock music or in classic rock. I rushed out and bought the album straight away.

Just was clearly the best song on the album, accompanied by a great music video, but there was some other really good stuff on there too. I very quickly bought Pablo Honey (average, but with a couple of highlights) and OK Computer (overrated, but with a couple of highlights), but The Bends remained my favourite (and still does to this day).

The rest of my years at University were spent digesting everything I could by Radiohead. I even remember buying one of those cheaply produced interview discs with the band, just because my appetite for anything related to them was so strong.

Their lasting effect on my musical tastes is impossible to quantify. I made a huge left turn from my existing staid music collection, and turned almost wholeheartedly into Indie and Britpop. I started listening to some bad examples of the genre (Cast, Space, Bis, etc), but found plenty of modern classics there too (The Las, Blur, Supergrass, etc). This eye-opening led to a decision that I’m still in two minds about today. In the summer of 1999, I decided against seeing Aerosmith headline a day of rock bands at Wembley Stadium, in favour of travelling to my first of many Glastontonbury festivals.

I guess it was just bad timing, but I still partly regret not seeing Aerosmith that weekend. One of my friends went to that gig, and when he told me about the setlist they played, full of ‘70s classics they had avoided playing in the three times I had seen them up to that point, I immediately started kicking myself. But then when I think back to Glastonbury 1999, and all the bands I saw not only that year, but every year I went back up to and including 2007, it’s not really a fair comparison.

If I had seen Aerosmith at Wembley Stadium in 1999, I would have seen my favourite ever band, supported by the likes of Lenny Kravitz (who I was lucky enough to catch that same weekend at Glastonbury) and The Black Crowes (who I still haven’t managed to see live). By deciding to go to the Glastonbury festival that year, and over the next six Glastonburys I went to, I managed to see David Bowie, Radiohead, R.E.M., Manic Street Preachers, Suzanne Vega, The White Stripes, Super Furry Animals, Oasis, The Who, Paul McCartney, Muse, Doves, Coldplay, Air, The Chemical Brothers, The Bluetones, Fatboy Slim, Kings Of Leon, Moby, The Killers, Blondie, Amy Winehouse, and a whole lot more.

Radiohead almost lost me with OK Computer, but they definitely lost me after that. At one point, I remember seeing them play a live gig on TV, I think to promote Kid-A. At one point during the set, Jonny Greenwood took off his guitar and walked over to a bank of portable TVs. He crouched down and started flicking through channels as part of the performance. That’s it, I thought, they’ve turned into something else.

I liked Radiohead as a guitar band, when they used to write songs on guitars. I’d even be brave enough to say The Bends is the best album of the 1990s.

Hit: Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Hidden Gem: Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was

Rocks In The Attic #190: Supergrass – ‘In It For The Money’ (1997)

RITA#190I remember being at University when this album was released, and seeing the music video to Going Out. I hated it. It was everything that Britpop was in my eyes – twee, kitsch and horribly self-confident.

Then I heard Radiohead’s The Bends, and my tastes started to soften. Prior to this, I was stuck in a world of sleeveless denim jackets, guitar solos and ‘heavier than thou’ rock and metal. Listening to The Bends, I realised that there could be a lot of good material to be found in this genre – as long as I stayed away from the overtly-kitsch stuff.

This was all cemented when I bought a compilation CD called Danger Zone. This mainly consisted of heavier examples of Britpop, like Blur’s Song 2 and Supergrass’ Richard III. Aside from that Going Out video, the only thing I knew about Supergrass was that catchy Alright single from their first album, which was exactly everything I hated about Britpop – smiley, over-confident drivel.

When I heard Richard III, I changed my mind about the band instantly. I couldn’t believe that such a poppy band was capable of recorded a tune that rocked out more than the rock music I was listening to at the time. There’s a lovely bit in the song when the drums fall out after the chorus, and the guitar plays a two-chord motif. When the bass comes in as a counterpoint, it sounds as though the guitar is changing key, but it’s just a trick of the ears. This to me, was of greater musical interest than any British rock bands of the time like The Wildhearts and Terrorvision.

I’m not a huge fan of Supergrass’ first album. I’ll listen to it, and enjoy it when I do, but I think In It For The Money is a masterpiece (and a huge step forward from their debut). As a guitarist, it’s fantastic to come across such an album full of riffs and chord progressions you want to play. Richard III, Sun Hits The Sky, Tonight and Late In The Day all feature really nice guitar parts that are seem to be natural progression to ‘70s guitar-based rock. I owned the guitar tab book for it at one point, but must have sold it when I was losing ballast to emigrate to New Zealand.

It took me a long time to realise but it’s so important not to listen to what the music press says, especially when they’re pigeon-holing a band into a specific genre. For me, Supergrass are the personification of how dangerously misleading such labelling can be. I was only fortunate to see the band play live once, at Glastonbury in 2004 but I immensely enjoyed standing in the rain in the Pyramid field watching them race through their afternoon setlist.

Hit: Late In The Day

Hidden Gem: Tonight