Tag Archives: Supergrass

Supergrass • In It for the Money [3CD]; Super Furry Animals • Rings Around the World [3CD]

Two British bands, both with “super” in their names, and both celebrating the more-or-less 20th or 25th anniversaries of one of their best releases. For SUPERGRASS, In It for the Money is nearly a quarter century old and comes in a remastered version bolstered by B-sides, demos and a live disc featuring most of the album’s tracks. SUPER FURRY ANIMALSRings Around the World is twenty and also comes in remastered form with B-sides and demos, but instead of a live set we get an entire disc of remixes. Both releases are excellent, and at least on the CD versions, overflowing with Britpop goodness.

Supergrass’ sophomore effort was light years ahead of their debut, I Should Coco, which suffered from a clumsy name and a narrow breadth of music (loosely then-considered “punk” but not quite). In It for the Money was a blast when it came out, and I have to admit – though it pains me to do so – I didn’t like it at first. It was my first experience with ’Grass and I thought it sounded either a) derivative [of what, I don’t remember!] or b) everywhere at once. After repeated listenings, though, I came around. I guess I figured out what they were going for and its power/Brit pop vibe was both focused and all over the place… in a good way. Harder rockers like the title track, “Richard III,” “Tonight” and others sat alongside “Late in the Day” and “It’s Not Me” and altogether obliterated the probably derogatory punk designation that Supergrass initially earned. They could have collectively choked with such a hold around their necks, but the band cockily flipped off the critics and delivered a downright classic alternative rock record.

For Super Furry Animals, their first major label outing benefited from a much larger budget and near unlimited time in a big league studio. Rings Around the World was more expansive than anything they’d done before, a little more electronic and a little more pop simultaneously. The lengthy album came with power-poppy tunes like the title track, nu-pop/soul like “Juxtaposed With U,” and the ballad pop of “It’s Not the End of the World.” It may now seem like a pretty lengthy album (it was released when vinyl was nearly dead) but it’s all very good so it’s really a moot point. The major label budget gave the band a chance to not only record nearly three single LPs’ worth of material, but to actually produce a 5.1 surround mix of the entire album and videos to go with it. (Sadly, you don’t get a disc with that material in this set but they can be had via the internet.) They also had a host of remixes done and most of those are here. I wouldn’t say those remixes are must-haves but they do give a good idea of what kinds of ideas and sounds the Furries’ heads were swimming in at the time.

Both Supergrass and Super Furry Animals’ deluxe CD sets are loaded with great material, and both are also available on vinyl – and in various configurations including colored vinyl variants, versions with bonus discs, etc. I opted for the compact disc versions of these in order to get all the goodies (and I already have one of them on vinyl anyway) and maximize my expenditure, but you may want to go the wax route if you’re in it for the vinyl. Whichever way you go, you’ll be investing in releases that represent absolutely the best stuff both bands ever did.
– Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Supergrass, BMG/Echo BMGCAT506CDX; Super Furry Animals, BMG BMGCAT510DCD; 2021)

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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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