ADRIAN THRILLS: Why it’s bye bye Britpop (and so long sideburns) for the face of Supergrass 

ADRIAN THRILLS: Why it’s bye bye Britpop (and so long sideburns) for the face of Supergrass

GAZ COOMBES: Turn The Car Around (Virgin) 

Rating: ****

Verdict: Britpop idol hits top gear

MARGO PRICE: Strays (Loma Vista) 

Rating: ****

Verdict: Soulful storytelling

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: Late Developers (Matador)

Rating: *** 

Verdict: Melodic pop with twists 

With Blur at Wembley, Pulp playing festivals and Noel Gallagher dusting down Oasis standards for his solo tour, we’re set for a summer of Britpop nostalgia.

But for one of the faces of Cool Britannia, the revival has already come and gone. As the frontman of Supergrass, Gaz Coombes has spent the past three years revisiting old glories and is now ready to move on.

Supergrass were among the brightest and bounciest of the Britpop bands.

Their 1995 single Alright was a cheeky anthem of the times and their reunion tours culminated in a spot at last September’s emotional Taylor Hawkins tribute concert and a Glastonbury set, watched from the side of the stage by Billie Eilish.

As the frontman of Supergrass, Gaz Coombes has spent the past three years revisiting old glories and is now ready to move on. Supergrass were among the brightest and bounciest of the Britpop bands

As the frontman of Supergrass, Gaz Coombes has spent the past three years revisiting old glories and is now ready to move on. Supergrass were among the brightest and bounciest of the Britpop bands

But reliving one’s youth, albeit in front of adoring fans eager to hear the crowd-pleasing hits, only goes so far in terms of satisfying creative urges, and Coombes, 46, began to grow restless as the Supergrass comeback blossomed. 

‘Playing those songs live again was special, but there’s a side of me that wasn’t fulfilled by it,’ he admits. The upshot is that the owner of Britpop’s most famous set of sideburns is returning to a solo career that’s been steadily gaining pace since his old band began a decade-long hiatus in 2009. His 2015 album, Matador, made the Mercury Prize shortlist, and his latest effort, Turn The Car Around, is his most accomplished yet. He hasn’t lost his grip on the melodic craft that fuelled Supergrass.

Track of the week

HAWAII by PUBLIC IMAGE LTD

‘You and me, all those good times,’ sings John Lydon in this uplifting love letter to his wife Nora, who is living with Alzheimer’s. An unusually tender song from the former Sex Pistol, the heartfelt ballad is in the running to represent Ireland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

 

Advertisement

There are nods to the classics — Hunky Dory-era Bowie; White Album-period Beatles — and some sharp, alternative rock numbers with traces of fellow Oxford musicians Radiohead.

But there’s also a contemplative, considered edge that gives his songs emotional depth. Having played most of the instruments himself on his three previous albums, Coombes has assembled a new band this time and these songs are built around a sturdy confluence of guitars and keyboards, with additional harmonies by vocal trio The Roxys.

If it’s the carefree singalongs of Supergrass you’re after, this won’t be for you, but there’s a stomping live feel to Long Live The Strange — an ode to the power of music inspired by Coombes taking his teenage daughter to a concert — while the influence of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood looms over the gnarly, modern rock of Don’t Say It’s Over.

Coombes sings of his wife Jools on Overnight Trains and This Love, his lyrics addressing how grown-up relationships differ from the heady rush of new romance. ‘Life’s not the same when you wish for things like summer drives and overnight trains,’ he sings on the former. This Love likens his marriage to ‘Romeo and Juliet . . . except we both survive.’

The mood is life-affirming and the album closes with Dance On, a lovely, acoustic ballad in which Coombes concludes ‘the only way is straight ahead’. He might be missing out on this summer’s second coming of Britpop, but Turn The Car Around suggests his solo career is moving nicely through the gears.

‘I’ve been a dancer, a saint, an assassin… a nobody, a truck-driver shaman,’ sings Margo Price on a new album that not only outlines her varied CV, but also reiterates her position as one of Nashville’s most convincing storytellers.

The singer, who pawned her wedding ring to make her way in music, has overcome addiction, rejection and tragedy, and she comes out fighting on Strays.

‘I’ve been a dancer, a saint, an assassin... a nobody, a truck-driver shaman,’ sings Margo Price on a new album that not only outlines her varied CV, but also reiterates her position as one of Nashville’s most convincing storytellers

‘I’ve been a dancer, a saint, an assassin… a nobody, a truck-driver shaman,’ sings Margo Price on a new album that not only outlines her varied CV, but also reiterates her position as one of Nashville’s most convincing storytellers

Having seen her previous album, 2020’s That’s How Rumors Get Started, delayed when husband and co-writer Jeremy Ivey was grounded by Covid-19, she’s keen to make the most of this release and themes of freedom and escape are to the fore on Been To The Mountain, on which she sings of battling her way through a tough life.

With Father John Misty collaborator Jonathan Wilson co-producing, she’s also moving away from country to rock. Mike Campbell, once of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, guests on Light Me Up, a crunching guitar number. Indie-rock siren Sharon Van Etten adds harmonies on Radio.

But Illinois-raised Price, 39, retains her hard-bitten edge. ‘If you break both your legs, don’t come running to me,’ she warns on the bluesy Change Of Heart. ‘Only love can tear you apart,’ she laments on the heart-wrenching ballad Landfill, singing with a soulfulness that’s wholly believable.

Once the preserve of superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, the art of the surprise album drop has now reached the world of jangling indie-pop. Announced last Monday and out today, Belle And Sebastian’s Late Developers arrives hot on the heels of 2022’s A Bit Of Previous, and plays to the band’s melodic strengths.

The Scots were once ridiculed for being fey wallflowers, but have proved remarkably robust and are still going strong 26 years on from their first LP, Tigermilk.

Once the preserve of superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, the art of the surprise album drop has now reached the world of jangling indie-pop

Once the preserve of superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, the art of the surprise album drop has now reached the world of jangling indie-pop

With bright, Smiths-like guitars prominent, several tracks would have fitted easily on to earlier albums. One song, the acoustic When The Cynics Stare Back From The Wall, dates back to 1994.

The best moments come as they breeze confidently between genres. So In The Moment makes a sly reference to the Wings hit Letting Go.

The biggest surprises are Do You Follow, a funky duet between singers Stuart Murdoch and Sarah Martin, and booming, 1980s-style synth-pop tune I Don’t Know What You See In Me. An entire album in that vein would be a real jolt.

All albums out today. Gaz Coombes starts a tour on April 15 at the Limelight, Belfast (ticketmaster.co.uk).

Source

Related posts