CD Review of Road to Rouen by Supergrass
Supergrass: Road to Rouen

Reviewed by David Medsker


When last we saw Supergrass…well, it was sort of hard to actually see Supergrass, though that haze of chronic that permeated their 2003 album Life on Other Planets. Call it a rare moment of vulnerability; their first two albums (1995’s I Should Coco and 1997’s In It for the Money) were brash, rowdy English pop at its finest, but many were displeased with the more mature sound of 2000’s Supergrass (except this writer, who thinks “Moving” is one of the band’s best songs), and the fans let the band know it. So Supergrass went back to what it did best, or at least what it used to do best, on Life on Other Planets. But it felt disingenuous, as if their hearts really weren’t into the whole snot-nosed brat thing anymore.

That suspicion is grandly confirmed within the first ten seconds of Road to Rouen, the band’s fifth album. Acoustic guitars, horns, and strings abound, and that’s just on the first two tracks. Supergrass, at long last, has officially grown up, and Rouen is a hell of a coming-out party. They still let loose here and there, like on the title track or the spacey “Kick in the Teeth,” which sports a guitar riff not far removed from “If I Needed Someone.” But most of the album is more measured, like the string-drenched “Sad Girl” or the six-minute “Roxy,” which sports a soaring chorus. The most surprising moment may be closing song “Fin,” a drum machine propelled otherworldly ballad that could be a sister to Blur’s “Yuko & Hiro.” For a band that’s best known for tearing songs apart at the seams, they have a surprisingly soft touch to go with it.

All of this, no doubt, will make the “Caught by the Fuzz” contingent most upset, since Road to Rouen doesn’t really rock in the conventional sense. But so what? They’ve always been much, much more than just a rock band anyway. It’s unclear if Rouen is a long term change in direction or just a pit stop on the way to something bigger and even better. In the meantime, accept it as the former, and hope for the latter.

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