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The Boston Phoenix X-Ray Visions

Supergrass get a little serious

By Linda Laban

MAY 8, 2000:  After the punk-pop fun of Supergrass's 1995 debut, I Should Coco (Capitol), and the denser rock of the relatively more serious In It for the Money (Capitol), which followed in 1997, it makes a certain sense that the English prog-pop trio have opted to leave their new album self-titled. After all, Supergrass (Island) is something of a new beginning for the band, who have switched American labels and developed a classier pop sound over the past couple of years. So a definitive statement was in order. But as Supergrass singer and guitarist Gaz Coombes is more than happy to explain over the phone from his home in the seaside resort of Brighton, that wasn't quite what he had in mind when it came time to name the new disc.

"Er, right, well, it's not actually called Supergrass," he points out. "It's kind of untitled, actually. It's just got our name on the record. We didn't want anyone to think it was eponymous. I just call it the 'X-Ray' album. It's got 'X-Rays' on the cover. That's the title, really, the artwork. If you went into a shop and asked for Supergrass's 'X-Ray' album, they'd know what you're on about."

Which is kind of quaint. But then, Supergrass are that quaint, quirky, often brilliant, astute, polite, and very English kind of band. The trio are old friends reared in that ancient seat of learning, Oxford. Fame scattered them when they were still in their early 20s: Gaz to the beaches of Brighton and bassist and singer Mick Quinn to the gray and glitter of London, leaving drummer Danny Goffey happily behind in Oxford. Since their debut release, Danny and Mick have become fathers, and that's given them some grounding as they pursue life in the fast lane of rock and roll.

"It's meant that we are never going to be an on-the-road-living-out-of-a-suitcase sort of band," says Gaz. "It doesn't make it any less exciting. It keeps your feet on the ground, and it means you can appreciate loads of different other stuff about life."

All the same, the band have covered most of the globe since autumn, when the new album came out in Europe (where, by the way, it has indeed been billed as Supergrass). And they're planning an American tour that will land in Boston this Friday, following the disc's April 4 release. The move from Capitol to Island is the reason for the delay in the disc's American release: "Things weren't going anywhere," says Gaz politely of the switch.

Positively charged, the new album fine-tunes Supergrass's best points while cutting the overblown elements of For the Money and toning down the over-the-top riotous moments of Coco. Some songs recall the misty, drugworn vibe of the early '70s Rolling Stones, others the rich, tuneful wail of prog-pop kings Supertramp. The result should foreclose on the possible genre labeling of Supergrass as part of Britpop's bawdy pack -- i.e., the notion that they're another Oasis.

"That sort of did enter our heads in a bit, really, being lumped in with everything else," Gaz acknowledges. "As time goes on, maybe people in America will buy I Should Coco and see it as quite an energetic punky record. Which is what it is, it's not part of any scene, really." Likewise, accusations that Supergrass were something along the lines of a new Monkees -- a joky fun band good for a quick larf -- will find little support here. "I can't blame anyone for thinking that when we get together, we bounce off each other a bit, someone says something stupid and that just kinda starts it. A lot of good bands have been like that, the Beatles, to name one, were very much like that." The Beatles also couldn't be bothered to give one of their albums a title.

"It's really lazy," Gaz admits with some irony in his voice. "We write a good album, write all the songs, do all the artwork, and then when it comes to completing it, we can't do the last little bit. But we thought there's no point in having a title that we were going to get pissed off with, so we just left it blank."

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