HAS MY FIRE REALLY GONE OUT?
This seems to be the Not-So-Super Summer. About a week after my posting that I found the new Super Furry Animals record to be a stillborn musical experience, the latest album from Supergrass, Road to Rouen, leaked, and it, too, is a soft drink whose fizz has gone flat.
Both of these bands started off their careers spectacularly, each delivering two albums right up front that were creative and full of passionate youthful energy; after that, each successive record seemed to take an increasing amount steps in the wrong direction. In fact, I never really thought about it before, but they are remarkably similar in their trajectory. Both the Furries and the 'grass recorded debut albums that were punchy and fun (Fuzzy Logic and I Should Coco, respectively). They were pop-rock collections that crackled in our ears the way pop-rock candy crackles in our mouths, the efforts of young musicians with everything to prove. Both matured quickly, delivering their best albums--Radiator for the Furries and In It For The Money for Supergrass--on their second try. What was stunning about both sophomore records was they showed a remarkable growth in a short amount of time. And perhaps that's the problem: these bands hit and then peaked right away, recording discs that most bands have to work several years for--if they ever come at all.
Look back at when we were young and evil.
From there, things started to go wrong. They both found an autopilot that they became more and more reliant on. Road to Rouen, for instance, only has nine songs, including one, "Coffee in the Pot," that isn't even two-minutes long, a mere instrumental interlude. The whole affair last barely over half-an-hour. As if we weren't already noticing a bit of a creative shortfall, the b-sides to the lead single are both live tracks. Supergrass came up with, really, only eight songs this time around, and then they went dry.
All of which would be fine if those songs were blisterng good...but they're not. They are all fine, decent tunes, with no distinguishing marks. They are played with a professional assuredness that can't be faulted on a technical level, but lacks any semblance of feeling. Expect just about every review to quote the song "Low C": "I can wander through the past, make believe it for a while, we were younger...the things we used to have, faded all too fast, like a castle in the sand, some things ain't meant to last, we were younger...." It says it all, doesn't it? Road to Rouen is the sound of a band just showing up.
Back then, the title was a joke.
What really marks Love Kraft and Road to Rouen as a death knell for both these bands, though, is the lack of good singles. Even when the albums were so-so, they both used to be able to pull off a great A-side. On Rings Around the World, the Furries had "Juxtaposed With U," and on Phantom Power, the rockin' "Golden Retriever." On Life on Other Planets, Road to Rouen's more interesting fraternal twin, Supergrass gave us "Grace." Next week, Super Furry Animals will release "Lazer Beam," which has a decent chantalong chorus, but the hook is pretty weak and sounds like something we've heard from them before. The verses are practically nonexistant. Supergrass has already dropped "St. Petersburg," and I'm still waiting for it to land. There's nothing there. It's a straight line that fades off into the horizon, and I can't imagine any listener ever wondering where it leads. In fact, it should be noted that I had to listen to each of these songs as I wrote this paragraph just to rememeber what they sounded like, when a good A-side is supposed to end with me wanting to start it all over again.
Thank God for the new Luke Haines collection, Luke Haines is Dead. His contempt for humanity reminds me that at least someone cares to feel.
Current Soundtrack: Supergrass, Road to Rouen; Super Furry Animals, "Lazer Beam;" Geri Halliwell, "Superstar"
Current Mood: disappointed
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich