I was reminded recently of the band Supergrass. I don’t know that I’d forgotten about them per say, or that I was needing to be reminded of my longstanding love of the UK rock band, but regardless this drop from the social media ether got me down the Supergrass rabbit hole.
I remember pretty clearly when I first heard the band, and it was of course MTV2 and the video for “Alright”. At first I was more intrigued than blown away. These scruffy looking dudes that seemed to be aping the look of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Small Faces, and Our Gang all the while running around to this super poppy piano-driven song. After the second or third time of watching this video I was hooked, so on my next jaunt to Borders Bookstore(in 1995 that was a pretty happening place to buy music) I found their debut I Should Coco and listened to it on the way home.
I was floored, man.
It was this amazing mixture of fuzzy guitars, bubblegum harmonies, and a touch of melancholy all wrapped up in this British trio. Songs like “Caught By The Fuzz”, “Time”, and “Sofa(of my Lethargy)” ended up on mix tapes for friends to admire and fall in love with. Supergrass were my new favorite music obsession. My wife(girlfriend at the time) and I were living in an apartment together and I remember her working 2nd shift and I days. Many nights were spent in the apartment by myself, cleaning up the place and cooking dinner whilst listening to I Should Coco. It was the soundtrack of 1995 and 1996.
So in 1997 we were married and living in the home we still reside in today, and Supergrass’ follow-up was dropping. Looking back I find it hard to remember how I even heard of new albums coming out before the internet, but I’m guessing I found all the info out in Rollingstone. Either way, I grabbed Supergrass’ In It For The Money on release day in April of 1997. To this day I stand by this statement, that In It For The Money is one of the single most important rock albums to drop in the 90s. And certainly one of the best of the 90s Brit rock releases.
Here’s some of my favorite albums to drop in the 90s, just so you have some perspective of where I’m coming from. Wilco’s Being There and Summerteeth, Jason Falkner’s Untitled, Radiohead’s OK Computer, STP’s Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop, Scott Weiland’s 12 Bar Blues, Ben Folds Five’s Whatever and Ever Amen, and a slew of other pop-centric rock and roll. And of course, Supergrass’ In It For The Money.
Now, for sure there’s some massive swaths of amazing music not being listed here. But in the 90s I was mostly interested in stuff that was pop-oriented; big fuzzy guitars and lots of vocal harmonies with touches of melancholy for good measure. I’ve grown exponentially in my musical tastes, but those albums I listed above are ones I will still listen to with much reverie and love. They take me back to a new and exciting time in my life where adulthood combined with freedom. It was before kids and huge responsibilities. I was still sort of a kid, but I wasn’t. When my grandparents were still around and weekends could be just a drive out of town to go buy music and get dinner, or a trip to St. Louis to see a friend was no big deal. It was before anxiety and worry had taken hold of my brain. Those albums represent my wide blue yonder of the soul.
In It For The Money, in-particular, was kind of a revelatory record for me. Where I Should Coco was fun and bouncy and all glammy pop, In It For The Money was a huge step forward for Gaz and company. It also saw Gaz’ older brother contributing synth and keys which I feel elevated their sound in a big way. It was also a much darker album, and lead single “Richard III” was proof of that. A mixture of punk rock attitude and otherworldly theremin courtesy of Rob Coombes, “Richard III” was a huge step forward sonically for the band.
There was a sense that the band wanted to grow and push themselves as songwriters, and the album has a more mature feel. “Late In The Day” might be one of the best songs Supergrass has written. And I’m not saying everything after this album can’t stand up to this. In fact, they never released a bad album. It’s just that “Late In The Day” is one of those classic-sounding songs, like it could’ve come out of the 70s. It’s got a timeless quality to it. Same with “Sun Hits The Sky” and “Hollow Little Reign”. These are all timers, man. Songs worthy of mix tape placement. “Tonight” is a fun track with what sounds like saxophone but is probably synth or keys.
Honestly there’s not a bad song on here. It’s a bulletproof record, front to back. The band locks in tight, both as a proper rock and roll unit and as classic songwriters. If you have not listened to this album yet, why haven’t you? Seriously, this is an absolute classic. Forget Oasis. Forget The Verve. This is it.
Supergrass continued to put out stellar albums; Supergrass in 1999, then Life On Other Planets in 2002, Road To Rouen in 2005, then Diamond Hoo Ha in 2008. Out of all of those Life On Other Planets is the one I revisit the most, as it has one of my all-time favorite Supergrass songs, “Grace”. There’s a scrappy pop joy to that song that seems non-existent these days.
Nobody is making unabashed guitar pop like that anymore(old man rant), except maybe Shy Boys. But each one of the Supergrass releases possesses something to love, as well as showing a band growing stylistically and for lack of a better term, maturing into one of the great 90s British rock bands. Listen to Road To Rouen. That’s what I’d call an adult album; from the arrangements to the musicianship to the album cover, it all feels like a band wanting to be taken serious. So of course they’d follow it up with an album called Diamond Hoo Ha.
Funny how one post on Instagram of someone strumming “Late In The Day” knocks me down a 90s Brit rock rabbit hole. I tend to be a little bitter about the 90s. I don’t know it through revisiting as someone who wasn’t there, but someone who lived it and survived to tell the tale. I’m not all that sentimental about it, as my tastes have changed drastically from 20 years ago. But there are some albums that hold a kind of magic for me. They take me to a time in my young-ish adult years when leaving for the weekend and visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or taking a day to drive a friend 5 hours to pick up a possible love connection at a state-run hospital, or deciding to throw a Hairy Buffalo party and have a dozen or so folks over to the house wasn’t a big deal. Thinking about most of those now gives me great anxiety, but back then I hadn’t dealt with enough life and all the curve balls or cannon balls it heaves at you. I was still relatively fresh to maturity and “adulting”, as it were.
The world was wide open, and In It For The Money was my soundtrack.