Review: Supergrass – The Strange Ones 1994-2008
One of Britpop’s greatest, and least celebrated, bands are back in business. the perfect time then for a comprehensive boxset looking back at their career…
When Supergrass announced their reunion in September after a decade away, some kind of reissue campaign was inevitable. The welcome surprise is the sheer thoroughness of their boxset – The Strange Ones 1994-2008 encompasses more than 100 additional songs, on top of their six studio albums. You get all 38 B-sides, four CDs of live tracks, 12 demos, four previously-unreleased songs and a 7″ single featuring brand new versions of Richard III and Caught By The Fuzz. Throw in eight badges, four posters and a book of essays about the band for a reasonably-priced £150 and only an idiot would complain about a career rounded up so comprehensively.
Being an idiot, your reviewer should point out that the vinyl in the boxset – their six studio albums – is on picture disc, the worst quality vinyl format, although those albums are included on CD here, too.
As well as the boxset, there’s also a newly-released 26-song Best Of album, again called The Strange Ones 1994-2008. Slightly odder than the boxset, it’s compiled by the band and wilfully has the big hits at the end: it’s track 11 before a huge tune – Grace – arrives.
While their sales tailed off, the quality mostly remained strong: only penultimate album Road To Rouen from 2005 is under par. Intra-band fighting is audible in the shrugging nature of its “will this do?” barely-completed jams. Gently excise that from the boxset and you’re left with a band who otherwise grew up in public just fine.
The big hits have aged well: there’s a timeless thrill to hearing youngsters being this audacious, with the likes of Alright and Late In The Day full of both youthful enthusiasm and Platinum-standard songwriting. It was little wonder that they were courted by Steven Spielberg, who wanted to make a Monkees-style Supergrass sitcom. To their credit, they swerved the idea to instead keep their heads down and carry on knocking out quality pop.
There’s a plausible argument Supergrass were best as a singles band, but that would deny the additional fun of In It For The Money and Life On Other Planets, where most of the album tracks are just unlucky not to have been picked as singles.
Final album Diamond Hoo Ha deserves reassessing, too – if the public took Supergrass for granted by 2008, their all-out glam approach paid off musically, sounding brilliantly anarchic at a decade’s remove.
Not so much strange ones, Supergrass seemed like regular musicians who made the most of their skill.
It makes for an absolute blast – those comeback shows should be a delight.