Supergrass: Road to Rouen

As the beards would suggest, Supergrass have grown up. But what does it mean to the indie mainstays that brought us so many seminal Britpop tracks in years gone by? Firstly, it signals a very different approach, as testified by the recent acoustic set at the Royal Northern College of Music. The gig went down a storm, and silenced many critics, but facial hair and pianos aside, how deep is the change? Most importantly, have our boys sold their soul to the man and lost their Ďyoung and freeí lifestyles forever.

In a word, no. Forget X & Y- whatever anybody else tells you, this is the record of the year so far, and it will be a sin if Supergrass donít equal Coldplayís mainstay glory with this one. It has more depth, more metaphorical grief and uprising and a damn sight more soul that Coldplayís fairly limp offering, despite anything the Ďmusic pressí may tell you. Let them pander to the men of the moment, safe in the knowledge that, in Road to Rouen, you have in your hands a truly career-affirming album. Thereís nothing as plain and lifeless as Speed of Sound on here, and thereís nothing as asinine as Fix You; these facts alone make it a glorious collection of music.

Far be it from me to proclaim this the second coming of Supergrass, but itís not far off. The whole album is, well, mature, but not in a trite way. The band have somehow avoided the music-world convention of becoming overfed rock stars after a few good albums, and have stepped out of themselves to produce what amounts to their best work yet. Gazís vocals on opening track, Tales of Endurance, combine a heavy acoustic feel with just a hint of early-nineties Mancunian madness, and the album soars from then on.

The first single, St Petersburg, is another gem, and the title track provides a further highlight. Somehow, though, this album is far more than the sum of its parts. Itís about change, progression, maturity and forward thinking. Itís about growing up but not forgetting. Look at the song titles- Low C, Roxy, Coffee in the Pot- this album, clearly, could so easily have ended up pitching Supergrass as some coffee-house student band wannabes with a high emphasis on the metaphorical. Instead, they show a firm understanding of their muse, which, indeed, is adult life, and they show a gritty desire to carry to take their franchise to the next level.

This story isnít over, itís just getting started. Immortality is earned, not stolen, and Supergrass have a real chance now of becoming the next band to ascend to superstardom.

Matt Barnes

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