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The Duke Listens To “Supergrass Is 10”

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Greatest Hits records, I think we can agree, are far from the coolest of items to be languishing in a fella’s collection. These round-ups of the more accessible corners of an artistes career have the aura of filthy cop-out hanging from them like some despicable tar. Nobody, when arranging their CD collections, has Nirvana sitting in front of In Utero. Even if such a placing were expected under, say, an alphabetical regime, one would still get all anarchist with regards the regulations, maybe flinging it into the “Compilations” pile under the shelf by the sink.

Greatest Hits records are the easy option, is what. There’s a hint of laziness about them, a sense that they somehow cement our fear of exploration. We’d rather buy that recent Fall compilation, for example, than spend a fortnight wrestling with Hex Enduction Hour.

But I digress from the point I still haven’t mentioned; Some Greatest Hits records, or Best Of’s (the kind reserved for folks with 29 albums and not a genuine hit on any) believe it or not, are among the finest records ever released. Stuff like Decade by Neil Young, stuff assembled with a lot of the consideration and the care and all that nonsense, collections what flow as well as any “proper” album.

See also the recent compilation from Northern Ireland scallywags Ash, Intergalactic Sonic 7″s, a brilliant selection of wonderful pop rockery, and a much more appealing prospect than the often rather patchy parent releases.

Which brings us nicely, if a tad belatedly (I mean what the hell, man, three paragraphs before you even mentioned the damn thing), to Supergrass Is 10, a career-spanning type deal from those sideburned fellas by the name of Supergrass, who are now ten years together, in case you were all confused about the title.

Supergrass were never the coolest of outfits. The Britpop Herman’s Hermits, if you will, to the much more credible Rolling Stones and Beatles types surrounding them in the old Top 40. Following the mega-selling I Should Coco, and the underrated In It For The Money, Supergrass appeared to slip off the critical radar somewhat. But they were there all that time, and somebody must’ve been buying all those singles and albums since the damn things were never out of the charts.

Supergrass don’t deserve the lukewarm response they so often receive. Supergrass Is 10 goes some substantial way towards proving that they were, and are, among the finest singles groups Britain has spawned since The Happy Mondays.

There’s very little here to sully a fella’s mood. Even when Moving threatens to fling some unpleasant Indie Balladry into the mix, it catches itself on and delivers a chorus bursting with ska-filled goodness. Next thing you know, you realise that even the initially offputting verses are home to some of the finest melodies these folks ever crafted. Wistful, evocative, intelligent, and then again with the ska.

Alright, the tune Supergrass will, for better or worse, always be associated with, suffers from over-familiarity. Who doesn’t know the one about “We are young, we are free, keep our teeth nice and clean” and all that jazz? I believe there were an elderly couple in Dover who had yet to hear it, but NATO or someone fixed that right up. Most alarming is how little it’s dated in the almost-decade since it first started blaring from radios the world over.

Also alarming is how quickly Supergrass matured, musically speaking. They didn’t start writing about “grown-up” issues or no shit like that, but the arrangements, the invention and all that malarkey took a nuclear shot to the hole in the time between the first and second albums. It’s hard to believe that they went from the decidedly simplistic, if very charming, garage punk of debut single Caught By The Fuzz, to the majestic glory of Richard III in less than three years. If we wanna get all scientific about it, as far as the evolution goes, it’s like an ape waking up one morning to find it’d become a civil servant.

Well, maybe that’s not so big a leap.

Sorry civil servants. And apes.

The album isn’t arranged chronologically, which means the ever-escalating melodic craftsmanship is less stunning than it would be if, say, a fella just flung on the albums in order, but the tracklisting is still intelligently compiled. Also, there are no jarring leaps in quality, either backwards or forwards. Late In The Day, from 1997, is immediately followed by 2002’s Seen The Light, for example, and if you didn’t know better, you’d assume they were from the same sessions. Imagine flinging something from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants by Oasis next to a track from their previous record. A fella would be liable to cough up a liver at the motherfucking shock of it all.

Also, it should be Standing On The SHOULDERS Of Giants, you grammar-molesting buffon’s. (The Duke is the first person ever to have noted this, I might add, with the possible exception of the thousands who noted it earlier.)

Here, though, by way of the old contrast and so on, only the more cockney stylings of Gaz Coombe’s earlier vocal performances alert a fella to the fact that a much younger band are running through Mansize Rooster than in the proceeding Sun Hits The Sky.

The two new tracks, Kiss Of Life and Bullet, are funk-peppered pop and guitar-heavy rock respectively, both being worthy of their placing in the tracklisting, with Kiss Of Life in particular being pretty much as good as anything else on here. So often these “New Track” deals on the Greatest Hits affairs are nothing more than a grim reminder of how unlikely it will be that the performer(s) in question will ever reach anything approaching “form” ever the hell again.

No such worries for these cats, though. With little or no hype nor scandal nor fuss nor fuckery, they continue to pump out three-minute long slabs of sheer delight with unequaled consistency.

Some motherfucker once mused along the lines of “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, is what.” Well, that ain’t a damn thing compared to the manner in which Supergrass have somehow had us assuming they were anything less than musical geniuses all this time. Tchaikovsky may well have written a couple tunes about some nutcracked fairies in a sugar plum or some shit, but if he wrote anything as glorious as Richard III, I’ve yet to hear a solitary fucking note.

Supergrass Is 10 is released in the US on September 28th, with initial copies playing host to a bonus live disc. If you buy all the tracks from iTunes, apparently you get the bonus stuff free, too. Following all this hoopla, they embark on a brief jaunt around the USA Of America, the dates for which follow, on account of The Duke is too good to you, you ungrateful sons a bitches.

28 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts
29 Washington, DC TBA
30 Boston, MA Paradise

2 New York, NY Webster Hall
5 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
7 Los Angeles, CA Avalon Hollywood

Also, on October 1st they make an appearance on the telly show fronted by the barbarian fella. The Conan O’ Brian Show or whatever.

Thanks Supergrass.

Thanks folks.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando.

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