This was an important album for Supergrass at the time it was released as they could so easily have quickly blasted out another I Should Coco to capitalise on their squeaky clean “Alright” image as retro Britpop(TM) boys, gamboling playfully in sunny parks and cheekily retorting at angry authoritarians as they run away, like a Beano comic… forever. By the time this image was cemented with the release of their first album the boys were already far too old for those kind of capers, having been around on the Oxford scene with the Jennifers and even having already signed a record deal with Nude under that moniker.
Enlisting the help of Gaz’s elder brother Rob on keyboards the band decamped to Sawmills studio with producer John Cornfield (the pictures of the band sitting in front of a round window on the inner sleeve were taken there) and, attempted to write a more grown up version of themselves, still retaining their more retro influences from sunny 60’s pop through to classic power pop/rock. The album is definitely more mature, and a lot heavier than its predecessor, and due to that has probably stood the test of time far better than much of the throwaway britpop bandied about at the time, and what better time to appreciate it now we have the distance of time to re-appraise it.
The album has been re-issued as a 3 disc set containing lots of extras, including demos and live recordings from the period, but let’s get to the album itself first. What was it about Neil Innes that suddenly everyone was ripping him off left right and centre? Firstly Oasis with “Whatever” lifting “How Sweet To Be An Idiot” wholesale, and here we have both “Richard III” and “Late In The Day” using very similar vocal refrains to The Rutles “Cheese And Onions”, their hilarious parody of The Beatles “I Am The Walrus”(covered by Oasis). There seemed to be a trend in the mid 90’s for referencing earlier works especially from the late 60’s early 70’s period. I mean just listen to The Charlatans or Primal Scream. On almost every bar you can play spot the reference. Supergrass have blended theirs cleverly but one can still hear the Kinks, The Beatles and the Beach Boys in the stacked harmonies and sunny dispositions, the Quo opener to “Tonight”, the descending bass lines so beloved of Paul McCartney, the dreamy music hall piano of Thunderclap Newman, the 60’s fuzz and leslie guitar of “G Song” bringing to mind the Stones and Cream, the Keith Moon fills, the theremin and moog trills and the Hammond heaviness of the title song and “Going Out”. It’s almost reminiscent of the brilliant XTC pastiche album “25 O’ Clock” by Dukes Of The Stratosfear. Almost, but not quite, because in Gaz Coombes there is a songwriter of some note (as he later demonstrated on his devastatingly great solo album Matador) and this album shows him knocking at the door of his talent and using these elements as dressing for a burgeoning talent. Take “Hollow Little Reign” for example. Nestled in the bouncing jauntiness is a tune that just aches for a brighter future, the brass section simply restating, while the oohs swoon with dreams. “Late In The Day” fades in on an acoustic guitar reminiscent of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while a tale of yearning is gently stroked into life by a sympathetic arrangement featuring all the aforementioned tricks, but in such a way that it provides a punch of pure emotion, perfectly brought to life by a guitar solo, simple but piercing. Elsewhere songs like “Richard III” rock like a bastard, as does “Tonight”. “Sometimes I Make You Sad” sounds like a psychedelic Syd Barrett music hall song and “Sun Hits The Sky” should feature on all classic rock compilations – it’s stratospheric.
So on to the rest. What we have here is a fascinating record of the record. The band went into the studio to record this album with only two songs actually written so most of it was worked on in the studio. We have recordings of songs in different guises, from “Susan (aka “Going Out)”, a heavy instrumental hammond led version, to the title song, a monitor mix, which to my ears is far more powerful than the album version. Interspersed among these versions disc two also contains songs written and recorded during these sessions. Songs like “Melanie” released as the b-side to “Going Out”, “Charles II”, an instrumental with a corking guitar solo, and “Silver Lining”, also previously unreleased, an almost Floyd-ian instrumental featuring some lovely Hammond. “Sometimes We’re Very Sad” features out-takes from the backing track to “Sometimes I Make You Sad” which features acapella percussion from the band. The last song on disc two “The Animal” (b-side to CD2 of “Late In The Day”) is worthy of mention just for the metronomic drumming of Danny Goffey alone, but wonderfully enhanced by Rhodes and bass.
Disc three is all live cuts recorded between 1995 and 1998, mostly from Nottingham Rock City on 18th January 1998, capturing the excitement and raw energy of a band in full flight. Brilliant.
If you have already got it in your collection then it’s probably about time you invested in a new copy, especially as you get all these extras, and if you’re a completist then discs two and three are a delight. If you haven’t already got it (and why not?!) then what are you waiting for. It’s a bona fide classic.
Catch Supergrass at the following live dates:
19th September – Isle of Wight Festival
19th December – Glasgow O2 Academy
20th December – London O2 Academy, Brixton
7th June – Falkirk Stadium
8th July – Bilbao BBK Live Festival
In It For The Money (Deluxe Edition) is out now as a 2×2 vinyl LP or 3 CD set
Find out more about Supergrass on their official website
Review by Andrew Wood