If the title of Supergrass’s new album is anything to go by, the band have been on a very long journey in the three years since their last eponymous offering. But Life On Other Planets sees sideburned Gaz Coombes and his cheeky, happy-go-lucky mates on the exuberant form which first won them fans and critical acclaim seven years ago – a long time in the fickle music business.
On the face of it, Supergrass are sort of lads who haven’t a care in the world and would be great drinking partners and reliable mates – which comes out in their music. No-one can forget their biggest hit Alright, which celebrated all the best bits of lad culture and was joyously without any of its nasty underbelly.
So Supergrass are back after a disappointing last album, and they seem to have recaptured some of their rich musical form which brightens up the dullest of outlooks. The new album kicks off in inimitable style, with a clutch of songs which sail along with a spring in their step- and an entirely forgivable nod to rock music of the old days. Opener Za has a punchy keyboard and swirls of guitar underpinning the whole affair, while Rush Hour Soul thunders along merrily with notes of Hammond and even the odd burst of clapping – and concludes in an explosive blaze of glory.
The freshness is lost with Seen The Light, which is a touch too much like T-Rex, complete with trilling female backing singers and zany guitar work. Current single Grace is an especially bouncy slice of rock-pop, with an infectious chorus giving a sense that these boys are having fun making their music. But Coombes and his chums aren’t entirely bouncy – they are susceptible to moods like the best of us, and some of this album reflects their darker moments. Can’t Get Up has a note of melancholy and maudlin with a mournful acoustic guitar adding to a sense of reflection and that things aren’t always Alright.
Gaz and the boys have chosen to conclude Life On Other Planets with another dose of their troubled inner soul. Run is mournful mood music by their usual standards and is almost tinged with a feeling of regret – but is tunefully executed. The track that brings Supergrass’s sadness and joy together is one of the finest on the album. Funniest Thing’s ghostly vocals spring to life with a ripper of a chorus and a touch of their madness.
If this band have been in outer space for three years, then they clearly weren’t brainwashed by aliens and didn’t lose their guitars in the stratosphere. The Supergrass sound of old remains intact and fresh from the days of Mansize Rooster all those years ago, and has the rare rock music quality of being honest and unpretentious. When these lads are musically tearing around without a care in the world, they excel. They can handle moodier moments as well, but are still best placed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.