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Supergrass

Call it pre-millennial psychosis, call it nervous exhaustion or call it self-pity, but you can count the pop people who haven't battled some kind of inner demons, depression, addiction or crises of co

Call it pre-millennial psychosis, call it nervous exhaustion or call it self-pity, but you can count the pop people who haven't battled some kind of inner demons, depression, addiction or crises of confidence on the fingers of a Twix. And you just know that 'My battle against depression and chocaholism, by Ainsley Harriot' story is coming soon.



But surely not Supergrass? Not those cheeky, chirpy chappies who sing about being alright and the sun hitting the sky and going out and pumping on your stereo? Oh the tears of clowns...



The deliberately not-wacky-any-more album title may give you the first clue, but at first it appears to be business as usual.



'Moving' may start out all plaintive and yearning, but within a minute the trademark happy clappy stompalong kicks in and all's well with the world. Until you listen a bit closer...



"I've got a low, low feeling around me/And a stone cold feeling inside/And I just can't stop messing my mind up... I've got to find somebody to help me..."



...And 'keep my teeth nice and clean'? Perhaps not.



Likewise, 'What Went Wrong (In Your Head)?' is an ebulliently beefy, bouncy piannery pop tune, but there are dark undertones at play, evident not only in the title. "I need some salvation... God save the unstable", wails Gaz, sounding unsure whether to laugh or cry.



And while musically it sounds sunny as ever, the undercurrent of discontent makes for a clutch of tunes that are just a little bit half-hearted.



On 'Beautiful People' it sounds like Gaz's voice has been speeded up in an echo of the wacky-backy 'We're Not Supposed To' on the first album. But consider: "Looking for reason, finding confusion/Caught in the crossfire, caught in the maelstrom". In a similar echo of past innocence, 'Mary' is a semi-psychedelic ditty that would like to be amiably daft but just sounds lazy. "I got a girl I like to shock her on a daily basis... I'd like to push you further into my stream, I'd like to tell you that her teeth are green". Close, but no comedy exploding cigar. And like at least half of this album, this is B-side material at best.



Thank God, then, for the glorious 'Pumping On Your Stereo', a song seemingly borne out of a mad night out with 'The Jean Genie' and Slade, complete with suitably hilarious video. Great. A song about the simple joys of rock'n'roll, for once. Oh, hang on a moment...



"The wider your eyes the bigger the lies...You're all alone on the road, you've burnt all your bridges down and now you're losing control...Your love is Mogadon/Your love is the end".



Are you sure there wasn't a lyric sheet mix-up with Soundgarden? This sounds like bitter, angry, paranoid stuff, a cry for help from a lonely mixed-up kid. Maybe that's what makes the latter tracks, 'Born Again' and 'Mama And Papa', dreamy, weary pleas for understanding, and all the more effective for their simplicity.



By then, though, we're already as underwhelmed, confused and generally unconvinced about this pop lark as Supergrass themselves sound. Oxford, we have a problem.
5 / 10

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