Review ·

When Supergrass released its first single, "Caught by the Fuzz," in 1994, guitarist/vocalist Gaz Coombes was merely eighteen years old. It's fair to say he and his bandmates have come a long way since then, but that doesn't mean every subsequent step has been a step forward. What Supergrass has done with its fifth full-length, Road to Rouen, is make a slightly rough transition from Brit-rock to Brit-pop, a place that longtime fans of the band might consider undesirable territory.


Realistically, it's not a big departure. Supergrass was essentially a pop-rock band to begin with, but the transition is noticeable. Whereas previous efforts (from 1995's I Should Coco to 2002's Life on Other Planets) were catchier, contained higher ratios of obvious singles, and made more prominent use of angular guitar, Road to Rouen - referring to the French city, not the ducks - shows off the group's ability to transform into a neo-classic Brit-pop band, lush layers and dark undertones intact.


The album, however, falls short with respect to consistency. Opener "Tales of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)" foreshadows the pace and style of the record: letting a simple acoustic strum lead into soft layers of every gradually added instrument (complete with indulgent trumpet solo) that evolve into a conclusion that recalls the heavily percussive pop-rock of previous singles. But when the album truly begins, with second track "St. Petersburg," we're handed a beautifully put-together pop ballad that blends perfectly into the next two tracks.


And then, nothing. "Coffee in the Pot," best likened to the Offspring's use of "Tea for Two" as the intermission track on Ixnay on the Hombre, is horribly out of place in its effort to prove that Supergrass still has a sense of humor. The title track begins a cluster of catchier songs well-suited to the band's previous but weakest album, Life on Other Planets. But by the time Road to Rouen is nearly complete, we're forced to end our thirty-five-minute journey with the anti-climactic "Fin," a soft ballad that is so terribly easy that it's the perfect finale to a downhill journey that wasted so much promise.


It seems Supergrass has used this record as an experiment, dipping into both familiar and unfamiliar territory with tempo and style (at least in reference to the band's own musical history). If the band members could let go of the familiar and make the final leap to the softer style they surprisingly succeed in, they'd have a gorgeous record on their hands - as well as proof that maturity indeed has its benefits.



Microsite for Road to Rouen:

"St. Petersburg" video:

Streams of five songs on Road to Rouen:


Discuss this review at The Prefix Message Board

  • Tales Of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)
  • St. Petersburg
  • Sad Girl
  • Roxy
  • Coffee In The Pot
  • Road To Rouen
  • Kick In The Teeth
  • Low C
  • Fin
Explosions in the Sky - How Strange, Innocence Lisa Shaw Cherry

I simply quote a famous phrase from F.Z:

"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read" :)

Dear China Bialos I'm glad you really enjoyed writing this review only as a post-it for yourself, probably! That's what reviewers are good at, writing more or less pretenciously and then read back their "masterpieces"...

I'm listening to Road To Rouen now and you're terribly wrong on almost all the aspects you wrote over here.

Ciao ciao!


So, thrust of Emiliano's review is that reviewers suck.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/type_slowly/travispic.jpg type_slowly

I do love that Frank Zappa quote though.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/narfish/HeadbangSquare.jpg narfish

I don't understand how so many crappily played, half-assed pseudo-arty indie releases can get higher ratings than a thoughtful, well played, well arranged album by a great band who actually knows how to play and write great songs. Wow, sometimes the hipster mindset is so horribly backward.

Stephen M

Don't think the hipster mindset has anything to do with why this reviewer gave Road to Rouen a bad grade. She's obviously a fan of Supergrass (as am I) and the album is lackluster compared to the rest of their mostly stellar catalogue.

You know what I don't understand? Why readers automatically think that a negative review means that the reviewer is some kind of elitist hipster prick. It's not like this album was being praised everywhere and China decided to be disagree because it's cool to be contrary. Her arguments are well founded methinks.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/narfish/HeadbangSquare.jpg narfish

Right on, Narfish. If someone's favorite band gets bashed, all the sudden it's hipster elitism, and we're reminded that "those that can rock; those that cannot critique."

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif noise redux

Hi. Managed to happen along, a bit late. In any case, of all the terrible reviews I wrote in my first year or two of writing for Prefix, I'm surprised that this is the one to get bashed. As Narphish pointed out, I love Supergrass and felt that this was nowhere near the accomplishments of their earlier and better records. Any "bashing" was rating them against themselves, not against other bands. Also, the scoring system was different in 2005; it was initially on a 5-point scale rather than a 10-point one, so this album, as a 2.5, fell between "fair" and "good," not under the failing standard that a 5/10 would be considered to fall under.

To Stephen in particular, a lot of crappy, pseudo-arty stuff gets graded too generously because every reviewer is different and grades on a different scale of toughness. If you were to look at my history of ratings, I actually used to give most albums what would now be scores of 5-6 on a 10-point scale. However, I tended to be more harsh than a lot of other reviewers here at the time, so my score average was lower than a lot of the other writers.


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