Album: Supergrass

Life on Other Planets, Parlophone
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The Independent Culture

Supergrass's fourth album has taken a little longer to appear than its predecessors, evidence perhaps of the shaky fortunes afflicting some of the band's peers. Though one of Britpop's most consistent performers, sales-wise – all three previous albums having gone platinum in the UK – the quartet is clearly canny enough to realise that not even the most abundant of wells can be drawn from at regular biennial intervals without some loss of potency. And to a large extent, the more protracted gestation has worked to their advantage: written on the French Riviera but recorded in Britain, Life on Other Planets finds the more flashy, progressive-rock tendencies that pushed their eponymous third album perilously in the direction of Mansun restricted to just a few tracks like "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", a psychedelic punk swirl in the vein of XTC, with lots of tricksy changes. And even the feverish vacillations between languor and impatience in "Evening Of The Day" are capped by a q

Supergrass's fourth album has taken a little longer to appear than its predecessors, evidence perhaps of the shaky fortunes afflicting some of the band's peers. Though one of Britpop's most consistent performers, sales-wise – all three previous albums having gone platinum in the UK – the quartet is clearly canny enough to realise that not even the most abundant of wells can be drawn from at regular biennial intervals without some loss of potency. And to a large extent, the more protracted gestation has worked to their advantage: written on the French Riviera but recorded in Britain, Life on Other Planets finds the more flashy, progressive-rock tendencies that pushed their eponymous third album perilously in the direction of Mansun restricted to just a few tracks like "Never Done Nothing Like That Before", a psychedelic punk swirl in the vein of XTC, with lots of tricksy changes. And even the feverish vacillations between languor and impatience in "Evening Of The Day" are capped by a quiet, reflective ending in which they admit, "He don't know what he's on about/Better go and lie down". As ever, it's possible to trace any number of classic rock influences in these 12 tracks – the 10cc featherbed harmonies of "Run", the Doors-y keyboards of "Evening Of The Day", the taut, offbeat Dr Feelgood riffing of "Brecon Beacons" (a song about supernatural retribution in the Welsh hills), even an offhand Elvis impression at one point – though the dominant influence here appears to be Marc Bolan, whose camp drawl and glam punch illuminates tracks such as "Za" and especially "Seen The Light" – surely the best T Rex pastiche since "Cigarettes And Alcohol".

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