Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Buy Supergrass Albums

I'll always think of Supergrass as my second-favourite band, even if dozens of artists have overtaken them over the years. Excluding my 'don't count' years, which were spent listening to stuff like B*Witched and 911, Supergrass is 10 was the joint first album I ever bought (the other was In Time by R.E.M., who of course will always be my very favourite band).

If you've never wiggled your toes in the 'grass - perhaps you judged them on Alright alone, or perhaps you're from one of those countries that doesn't have Supergrass - I'd be more than happy to point the way for you. Here's a list of their discs - I recommend spinning them in the order given.

1. Supergrass is 10: The Best of 94-04
Yep. The band's (slightly premature) greatest hits compilation makes for a pretty obvious launchpad, but hey, it works. It certainly worked for me, anyway - the songs on this album kickstarted a love affair (or a recurring booty call, at the very least) that has lasted for the best part of decade. Yes, you'll hear Alright and Pumping On Your Stereo, but even if you're not a fan of those tracks for some reason, I'd wager that the likes of Mansize Rooster and Going Out will still enchant you. If not, well, you should probably cut your losses and stop here.

2. Life On Other Planets
Having started with a best-of, you may be tempted to assume that you've already heard the cream of what Supergrass have to offer. You may be tempted to halt your Supergrass journey without even buying a proper studio album - after all, the best bits of each album were splattered across Supergrass is 10, weren't they?

Don't worry. I felt that temptation too, way back when, but getting past it was relatively easy, not least because Supergrass albums are supercheap nowadays (I'm not sure how the 1p Album Club is still a Supergrass-free zone - check out the used prices on Amazon). If you're wondering how to spend that first penny-plus-postage, Life on Other Planets is a fine first foray into Grassland proper - you'll be welcomed by such familiar faces as Rush Hour Soul and Grace, both of which you know from Supergrass is 10, but you'll also have the chance to meet awesome album tracks like Funniest Thing and Brecon Beacons. Not to mention the incredibly infectious La Song (see video above). LOOP is far from the best 'grass album, but it is probably their easiest - they were clearly having a lot of fun when they recorded those tracks.

3. Supergrass (a.k.a. 'The X-Ray Album')
Here's where we start to brush up against the weirder side of Supergrass. True, the X-ray album contains two of the band's biggest hits (Moving and the aforementioned Pumping on Your Stereo), but it also has stuff like Eon (famously built upon umpteen guitar tracks) and Mary, with its rather creepy promo video:

But while Supergrass is one of the more challenging albums in the band's catalogue, it still offers plenty of great pop moments: see the head-nodding groove of Your Love, or the rather more menacing Beautiful People, or penultimate track Faraway, which may well be the band's single greatest achievement.

As evidenced by Shotover Hill, Mama & Papa and, yes, some parts of Faraway, the X-ray album was the point at which Supergrass started to get emotional, resulting in perhaps their deepest set of songs yet. That crown would later be pinched by Road to Rouen, but we'll come to that in due course.

4. In It For The Money
This one's my favourite. It feels like the perfect blend of wacky, wide-eyed Supergrass (represented here by tracks like Sometimes I Make You Sad, the album's beatboxing closer) and the more grown-up version of Supergrass (as seen in the rocked-up Richard III and the introspective It's Not Me).

The interesting thing about IIFTM is how simple most of its songs are. I remember reading that, when the band entered the studio to record this album, they had very little material ready to go - most of it was written on the fly, and it shows, but in a good way. Richard III is a great example, actually, because it's just that one riff, over and over, and yet somehow it's still one of the best songs in the Supergrass catalogue.

5. Road To Rouen
Right then, you've had enough time to prepare - it's time to take on the 'difficult' Supergrass album. RTR is actually my second favourite 'grass release after IIFTM, but I'll concede that it is much less immediate than the other stuff. Still, the opening track is utterly immense, which helps:

Road To Rouen is one of the best slow-burners I've ever come across, and it's all the more stunning for having come from Supergrass. There's the stomping, tragic finality of Roxy (inspired by the death of Gaz Coombes' mum); the pounding insistence of the title track; and the beautiful brilliance of Low C, which was made even better by its truly lovely video:

I'll admit that my eyes were slightly moist after the first time I saw that.

6. I Should Coco
The Supergrass faithful, if in fact they're reading this, may wonder why I've left this album so late. I Should Coco is kind of THE Supergrass album - the one with Alright, Mansize Rooster AND Caught by the Fuzz nestled in its grooves. Oh, and it's also their debut. Surely this is where people should start?

Well, if you only want to buy one Supergrass album, then sure, I'd recommend this one. It's the most Supergrassy, no question. However, I personally didn't get 'round to buying I Should Coco for a very long time (largely because of the 'already heard it on the best of' issue - 7 of ISC's 13 tracks appear on Supergrass is 10), and when I did, it felt like I was completely rediscovering one of my favourite bands. Hearing old friends like Strange Ones alongside new stuff like Sitting Up Straight and I'd Like to Know was a big treat, and Sofa (of My Lethargy) became a new favourite, up there with the likes of Faraway and Going Out.

So yeah, it's definitely worth saving this one until later. Wait until you feel like you're getting bored of the band, and then grab a copy of this to reinvigorate your interest. Again, it's only 1p.

7. Diamond Hoo Ha
This one's last because, frankly, it's kind of optional. Diamond Hoo Ha isn't a terrible album - Bad Blood (below) is still a tasty wee tune - but it is somewhat forgettable compared to the others. Buy it if you need more Supergrass in your life, but don't worry if you're satiated by this point. You're not missing anything essential.

And there you have it - your complete guide to purchasing Supergrass albums. Now, if someone else could compile a similar list for The Mountain Goats, that'd be great.


  1. Nice write up. Yup - just looking through my collection now and I only seem to be missing 'Diamond Hoo Ha' and 'Road To Rouen'. I think maybe they wouldn't top 'Life On Other Planets' and from what you've written here it appears that they didn't. Oddly enough, for such a seminal album, I only actually bought 'I Should Coco' a couple of years back - I think I was happy enough with the slew of singles they released from it which I bought at the time.

    Saw them early on in TJs in 1995 - which is I think the only time I actually ever caught them in the end.

  2. I'd definitely recommend giving Road to Rouen a try. It's very different to their other stuff, but it's a very rewarding album.

  3. They could do woth re pressing some of these as the originals are getting scarce and bloody expensive!!!