he majority of Britpop bands since the 1995 explosion had a life span similar to that of a dot com enterprise. Supergrass initially seemed unlikely to buck the trend but now, four albums into their career, their infectious enthusiasm is showing no signs of abating. Life On Other Planets is no great excursion from what we are used to from the band. Anyone expecting direction changes and unpredictability may not find this band particularly exciting, but anyone who is a sucker for catchy, contagious pop tunes will revel in Life On Other Planets as they did in I Should Coco, In It For The Money and, to a lesser extent, the self titled third LP.
“Za” opens the album in typically vibrant fashion; distorted vocals and a bouncy rhythm make it the archetypal album opener. The influence of T-Rex is as evident here as it is for the majority of the album. Fortunately, it rarely results to blatant plagiarism, resting more as a knowing wink to the glam-rock era.
I Should Coco was a definitive record of the Britpop era. It is unlikely that the band will ever achieve that sort of relevance again though, in some cases, the song writing is far more accomplished. “Never Done Nothing Like That Before” is a ninety second pop-punk burst that could slip in quite comfortably along with songs that brought them to the public’s attention in the first place such as “Caught By The Fuzz” and “Strange Ones”.
“Brecon Beacons” is an example of Supergrass’ lack of focus becoming a curse rather than a blessing. Nonsense lyrics cannot be held solely to blame, they have not restricted their genius in the past (“Mansize Rooster” anyone?). It’s simply lacking in the spark that can make them such a joy to behold. Similarly “Evening Of The Day”, for all its pleasantness, is unlikely to make any impression on the listener (except possibly annoyance at its overlong climax). Fortunately “Grace” restores your faith a few tracks later, a shining example of the band’s ability to make music that’s almost impossible to actively dislike.
Life On Other Planets is, in large part, a more refined version of what has gone before in Supergrass’ career. It will not earn them a massive new following but it does substantiate their presence in a market that, by rights, they should long since have left. In the end, it seems like they’re treading water, remaining a group more suited to the singles market than an album band.
Reviewed by: Jon Monks
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01