Supergrass

Road to Rouen (Parlophone)

Supergrass no longer sounds like a hyperactive younger brother jumping up and down, clamoring for attention. After releasing last year's retrospective, Supergrass is 10, perhaps the band decided that year 11--and the album that goes with it, Road to Rouen--marked the time to grow up and mellow out. With help from keyboardist Rob Coombes, the Oxford quartet ventures even farther from their former pop-single simplicity, augmenting familiar classic-rock guitar grooves with pianos, maracas and a zither. Opener "Tales of Endurance" starts with fast-strummed acoustic guitar only to crescendo in reverberating piano, slide guitar and brass, and it's almost matched in ambition by "Roxy," a six-minute epic of organ and strings. Rouen sees the band finally trying tempos other than fast and kinda-fast--"St. Petersburg," the first single (which you might hear if you travel to a city with an alternative rock station), has a shuffling, brushed-snare backbeat, which is a nice result of this new emphasis on dynamism. Instead of asking if you can hear them pumping on your stereo, singer Gaz Coombes claims on "Endurance" that he and his mates welcome commercial suicide. But considering this is their best album ever, let's hope this Road doesn't lead to it.

 
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