Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
In 2015 I wrote a 3-part series on the discography of Supergrass, the Britpop-era superstars whose music transcended that era better than most (or all) of their contemporaries. At the time the format for my posts included notes on “Essential” and “Notable” tracks, as well as a summary of each album, so I’ve already discussed my love of their music in great detail. See below for my thoughts on their 1995 debut, I Should Coco, which still blows me away like it did 25 years ago.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
I still recall the first time I saw their debut. It was part of a care package from a friend at their record label (one of the perks of working in the music industry). Whenever I would receive a box full of CDs, other than discs I specifically requested I would usually play a little bit of each CD to see if it was something I might like, and if it didn’t pique my interest I would either pass it along to another music-loving friend or sell/trade it. Looking at those cartoonish faces on the front cover of I Should Coco , I figured this was a young punk band that would be immediately forgotten, but as each subsequent song played my ears continued to perk up, and by the end of the first listen I knew the album was a keeper. The trio of singer/guitarist Gaz Coombes (only 18 when I Should Coco was recorded), bassist Mick Quinn and drummer Danny Goffey, along with unofficial fourth member (and Gaz’s brother) Rob Coombes on keyboards, combined the melodicism of The Kinks & The Beatles, the ferocious rhythms of The Who, the Anglo-centric vocals of Madness and the punk/pop energy of The Buzzcocks into a musical stew that sounded like no one but themselves. For a group of young men (Quinn was the oldest at 24), they clearly devoured a lot of music in their youth, and they delivered a nearly perfect album to kick-start their career. Of the 13 tracks here, all but one are included in my lists of Essential & Notable tracks below. Only “We’re Not Supposed To” was left off. It’s a fun track, but with the speeded-up vocals & silly atmosphere, it’s not far off from David Bowie’s early novelty song, “The Laughing Gnome.” Otherwise, it’s hard to ignore the onslaught of one great song after another.
♪ “I’d Like To Know” – The first of four consecutive killer tracks to start the album. Rolling drums, chugging bass, Farfisa(?) organ, sneering vocals and great “ooooh, la la la la” backing vocals. I love the bright, open chorus (“I’d like to know where all the strange ones go”) and the slow, descending middle section.
♪ “Caught By The Fuzz” – Their debut single which just missed the UK Top 40. Splashy drums, slightly distorted vocals and great dynamics (claustrophobic verses and bright choruses). This level of subtlety is not something you usually hear from such young musicians. Has a similar energy to Green Day’s earliest hits.
♪ “Mansize Rooster” – Their first Top 20 single; a fun Kinks/Madness hybrid. Stomping verses with plinking piano, and the rhythm section is on fire. Huge melodic hooks at “Why you looking so crazy, why you looking so lonely for love?” and “How would you know if you never, ever saw me?”
♪ “Alright” – Their third single and biggest hit, reaching #2 on the UK singles chart. Features barrelhouse piano, a driving rhythm, a peppy melody and upbeat, fun lyrics (“We are young, we run free, keep our teeth nice & clean, see our friends, see the sights, feel alright”). There’s a cool driving rock ‘n’ roll vibe during the instrumental section followed by a tasteful melodic guitar solo.
♪ “Lenny” – Another Top 10 single, this one starting off with heavy repetitive bass on the up-beat through the intro. Quinn delivers an impressive, fluid, John Entwistle-esque bass line, and I love the lyrical hook at “I’ve been around and around but I got nowhere to go now.”
♪ “She’s So Loose” – This one has more of an acoustic feel while retaining the propulsive rhythm of the majority of the other songs here. I love Gaz’s soaring vocals at “Take…my…love…away” and the slowed-down tempo for the three-word chorus.
♪ “Time” – Part of a double A-side single with “Alright.” There’s a tight, midtempo semi-shuffle groove and I like the way he draws out certain words, i.e. “The tiiiiime” and “I knoooow.” This is a simple song with a catchy hook at “Yeah I know what I, I see, have it all you,” and I enjoy the subtle harmonica accents.
♪ “Time To Go” – One of my all-time favorite album closers; a short (under 2 minutes), slow, bouncy, simple acoustic tune that hints at an early-‘70s Pink Floyd influence. There’s an end-of-the-party feeling when he sings, “Thanks to everyone for everything you’ve done but now it’s time to go,” and I’ve always loved his inflection at “Who could ask for more?”
Other Notable Tracks:
- “Lose It” – Has a great vibe but not quite as classic as the four opening tracks that precede it. Features rumbling bass and Gaz screaming “So don’t loooose it, no don’t loooose it” with some distortion added to his vocals.
- “Strange Ones” – Lyrically similar to album opener “I’d Like To Know” (“There’s a place where the strange ones go where nobody here could know”) but musically different. It’s more psychedelic, and there’s a cool shift to a 6/8 rhythm at “I want to cry for you, I want to die for you.”
- “Sitting Up Straight” – The soft 20-second piano intro gives no indication of the fast, punky rocker to follow. It’s short and has great energy: “Sitting up straight on the back of the bus, mimicking time as the evening turns to dusk.”
- “Sofa (Of My Lethargy)” – The longest song here at more than 6 minutes, and it takes its time to travel through various sections. There’s a slow, loping rhythm with tasty organ accents, subtle drumming and an overall hazy, unsurprisingly lethargic vibe. It picks up at “Hold on now, all I wanna do is see you” but quickly slows back down. The early-‘70s Pink Floyd influence mentioned above first appears here, but it’s mixed with elements of The Faces and The Band, and there’s an excellent slow 2-minute Floydian outro.
Who else was also rockin’ out to Supergrass back in ’95, and continues to do so a quarter century later? If you’re new to their music, and you like the sound of a power trio blasting out songs packed with killer riffs & infectious melodies, you’re in for a treat.