Tag Archives: Supergrass

The Hot Rats • Turn Ons [CD, LP]

 [Originally published 2/11/2010 on Skratchdisc]

Gaz and Danny from Supergrass, THE HOT RATS’ Turn Ons is an album full of cover versions. Perhaps taking the idea from David Bowie’s 1974 Pinups album, or even more recently any number of other all-covers albums, the two-man band and producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Paul McCartney) put together a dozen or so songs for the occasion, and twelve of them appear here.

The festivities get started with a shot at Lou Reed’s “I Can’t Stand It” and The Kinks’ “Big Sky.” Things lag a bit on The Doors’ “The Crystal Ship” and then you get to the first single, “Fight for Your Right,” which sounds nothing like the Beastie Boys’ original. In fact, the Rats do a great job of completely changing it… for the better, really, since that song—so closely associated with the silly video that accompanied it—is ultimately a childish, bombastic thing. (And I’m not saying I don’t like it!) Stabs at Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello, The Cure, and Bowie himself follow, and then comes “EMI,” which is great because, as you know, the Sex Pistols cut that song as a swipe at the first label that signed and then dropped them. And it makes you wonder, does Supergrass still have a contract with EMI, whose Parlophone label they have been on since 1995? (The band did this song on the Craig Ferguson late night show with Pistol Steve Jones—look it up on YouTube!) Well, anyway, the disc ends with a very nice, melancholy version of Squeeze’s “Up the Junction,” with an arrangement that really does justice to Difford & Tilbrook’s sad story-wrapped-in-a-happy-melody that was a chart topper in the UK in ’79.

All in all, a pretty great covers album. Some songs are awfully close to the originals, some aren’t, and some are in between. They all sound like The Hot Rats, though, a crunchy, sorta lo-fi vibe quite different from Gaz & Danny’s other band’s sound, so you’re not gonna confuse these versions with the others when they come up randomly on your iPod. My only qualm? They didn’t include the Rats’ version of “Drive My Car” on the album, even though there’s a video for it. Where can a Supergrass/Hot Rats fan get this, I wonder? I hope it’ll be on a single or something…
3/5 (Fat Possum [US], G&D Recordings [UK])

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Supergrass • I Should Coco (20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 3CD)

ishouldcoco-350pxIf they left anything off of this exhaustive 3CD reissue of British band Supergrass‘s debut album, I Should Coco, I can’t imagine what. The band entered the Britpop sweepstakes a little on the late side with this 1995 album but they had more balls than Blur, Oasis or any of the other groups lumped into that genre that have now been forgotten by all but the most hardcore Britpop fans.

What you get here is the original 13 song album on disc one, followed by the superlative disc two that collects “demos/B-sides/out-takes/curios” including their first two (pre-Parlophone) singles, numerous B-sides and demos and a real solid idea of how this trio put together their initial repertoire. I love the kickass studio demo of “Lose It,” the cover of “Stone Free” (appeared on the 7″ single that came with initial vinyl copies of the ’95 issue and is also included in the current vinyl reissue), and the original Backbeat Records versions of “Strange Ones” and “Sitting Up Straight.” But they’re all quite good! Then there’s disc three, which is dedicated to live versions of their tunes recorded at Bath Moles in October 1994 and in France at La Route Du Rock in August 1995. You get to hear the progression from punk nutters to (slightly less punk) nutters in under a year, just before they recorded their utterly brilliant sophomore release, In It for the Money.

Supergrass_bandSupergrass toned down the punk rock energy after I Should Coco, and they got better despite that. Their ability to write and arrange unforgettable pop melodies was hardly bettered during the ’90s, as demonstrated by the singles “Mary,” “Seen the Light,” “Pumping on Your Stereo” and “Rush Hour Soul.”  Though they didn’t score the number of hits that their Britpop elders did, they certainly couldn’t be accused of not putting ’em out there. The public didn’t buy them and that was the public’s loss. Here in early 2016, listening to “Alright,” “Lenny” and their killer cover of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” I long for the times when bands wrote energetic power pop songs with king-sized hooks and I gobbled them up. Right now it seems like those days are gone, so here’s to hoping either Supergrass gets back together or somebody takes up the torch real soon!

4/5 (Parlophone 1995/2015)

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