After 17 years and six albums, Supergrass are no more. “Musical differences” is the given reason, but it doesn’t take a coal-hearted cynic to conclude that the real reason is simply the economic logic that applies to all veteran bands in 2010. Records no longer selling? Take a break, give it a few years – enough time for mild indifference to turn into fuzzy nostalgia – then reform for a mega-bucks festival headline slot.
Perhaps that’s overly harsh. There’s still an enormous amount of residual affection for Supergrass. It’s just that, post-‘Road To Rouen’, it was becoming increasingly hard to get excited by their albums – and the trio’s wacky alter-egos (The HotRats, Diamond Hoo Ha Men) felt like the scattergun actions of men whose music was perhaps not inspiring them as much as it once did.
Like Ash, so much of Supergrass’ appeal was based on their youthful exuberance – their debut single ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ was about being arrested at age 15; their second, ‘Mansize Rooster’, was supposedly about penis size – it felt vaguely inauthentic and forced once the band were all family men in their thirties.
Ultimately, Supergrass’ problem was that their debut album ‘I Should Coco’ was so good, so thrilling and punky and perfect, hooks and ideas falling themselves in their haste to be heard, it established an image of the band that they could never quite break out of, no matter how hard they tried.
The crossover success of ‘Alright’ gave the press a thumbnail vision of the band – irrepressible funsters enjoying an eternal youth – that was never entirely representative of a band who always seemed more comfortable with their foot off the pedal, as on the languidly psychedelic likes of ‘Late In The Day’.
How they must wish have regretted the ‘Alright’ video – there are few images more time-bound and ‘height-of-Britpop’ than that of the trio careering round on that bed, all smiles, dressed in pyjamas.
In reality they weren’t that squeaky clean. And they weren’t that cheerful, either. There was far more to Supergrass than bouncy three-chord guitar-pop. They could be weird, and menacing, and druggy, and difficult.
How will you remember them? For me, they never quite bettered this: