But what's it all about, Gaz?

Supergrass, Add N To (X) Rock City, Nottingham
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The Independent Culture

Blimey, Supergrass are a great band. I don't think any of their three albums quite does them justice, but in concert they are breathtaking. From the firstchord of "Moving", the fans don't stop doing just that. They jump and dance and merrily climb on each other's heads as the band play track afterpower-pop track of stunning quality and immediacy. It seems that Supergrass don't write verses. They write three separate choruses, staple them togetherand call it a song.

Blimey, Supergrass are a great band. I don't think any of their three albums quite does them justice, but in concert they are breathtaking. From the firstchord of "Moving", the fans don't stop doing just that. They jump and dance and merrily climb on each other's heads as the band play track afterpower-pop track of stunning quality and immediacy. It seems that Supergrass don't write verses. They write three separate choruses, staple them togetherand call it a song.

Although Gaz Coombes tends to be ignored when magazines compile lists of pop's best singers, his voice is a wonder, not just for its power and claritybut also its edge of nerve-jangling hysteria. Funnily enough, it is the exact vocal equivalent of his distinctive sustained-note guitar solos. But Supergrassaren't a one-man band. It's a mystery how Mick Quinn can sing such sweet harmonies while navigating basslines so tricky that they threaten to wear hisfingers down to the knuckles. Danny Goffey (drums) and Coombes's brother Rob (keyboard) complete a fearsomely tight unit.

No disrespect to the man controlling the mirrorballs and the strobes, but on this occasion they weren't needed. There are few bands today who cancaptivate you without putting on a show - that is, bands for whom creating live music requires such incendiary skill and energy that this becomes the show.To ask for additional entertainment would be like asking a trapeze artist to do card tricks while he's at it. Apart from Supergrass, only Radiohead andGomez spring to mind.

So how come they're playing in a club and not a football stadium? It could be because Supergrass are the world's least style-conscious pop group: to seethem is to have a nightmare vision of a world without combs. But Supergrass's restricted personal grooming budget is just a symptom of a broaderproblem. Their lack of interest in how they're perceived extends to so many areas that nobody can say what the band stand for, not even them.

Supergrass's new album is called Supergrass because they couldn't think of another name for it. The sleeve is illustrated with snaps of them in the studio,playing their instruments. These are not the signs of a band with a burning sense of purpose. True, their videos are cartoony fun, with the chaps hoppingthrough the streets on pogo sticks or transforming into elongated Muppets (unnecessary in Gaz's case, as he already resembles the bin-dwelling monsteron Sesame Street). But that, I think, is because the songs are so vague as to be blank canvases: why not do a Muppet video when the lyric doesn't suggestanything else?

I know I always bang on about Supergrass's lyrics, but this time I have an excuse. Pop song lyrics were the theme of Thursday's National Poetry Day, so Ifeel justified in asking why Supergrass are no longer writing words that speak for a generation, or that at least give a generation something to sing alongto. "Caught By the Fuzz", their first hit and Tuesday's last song, had just such a lyric, but the newest songs - "Jesus Came From Outta Space" and"Mary", for instance - do not. Surely a band by the name of Supergrass should be trying to tell us something.

Add N To (X) are exempt from this tiresome tirade because they don't have any lyrics for me to criticise. Some of Tuesday's audience might argue thatthey don't have that many tunes either. The group's record company must have predicted the crowd's response (there were as many boos as cheers)because, after the show, information cards were handed out which read, "Who the f--- was that supporting Supergrass?"

The answer is that Supergrass were supported by one furious punk-rock drum-batterer and three synthesiser players, one who looked like MorticiaAddams, one who wore a Motorhead T-shirt and one who believed that heavy metal guitar hero poses shouldn't be restricted to guitarists. These sadiststortured their aged instruments, twisting knobs and prodding buttons until their Moogs and Korgs were screeching with pain and a theremin wassquealing in fear.

Add N To (X)'s album, Avant Hard, is subtitled "A New Heart to Analogue" with good reason. Silly and kitsch, it's stuffed with English eccentricity, sci-filounge music and some highly melodious whistling. In concert, Add N To (X) forget all this; they're too busy proving that synthesisers are just as capableof eardrum-puncturing sonic assault as guitars are. But as anyone who has heard Suicide will know, this doesn't need proving. Which leaves us withanother question: why did Add N To (X) change a winning formula?

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