Supergrass can do no wrong. Whether the band releases a slick punk-pop record or a moody, think-along soundtrack, the product is consistently satisfying. From the first moment that Road to Rouen flutters into action, it’s clear that this album isn’t like their previous stereo-pumping confections like I Should Coco and fan favorite In It for the Money. Supergrass succeed again with their latest, taking listeners on a contemplative trip from the band’s native Britain to the bustling city of Normandy.
The alt-pop power trio of Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn and Danny Goffey is joined on Rouen by Gaz’s older brother Robert, whose keyboard flourishes flesh out the band’s already rich melodies. Vocally, Gaz sounds as if he could be the sensitive love child of Billy Corgan and Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher after downing a fistful of tranquilizers.
With lyrics like “Follow all the signs and they’ll lead us away,” it seems that Supergrass has an urge to travel. Whether this theme of movement is telling of the band’s future or their emotional state, it lends a nomadic feeling to the album. A diverse yet unified record, Rouen moves easily from the salsa stumble of the instrumental “Coffee in the Pot” to the wandering piano-plod of “St. Petersburg.” The album never strays from the luscious, late-night drive ambiance that it begins and ends with, which makes it a work of art – balanced, focused and beautiful.
Even though Road to Rouen rides on smooth, slow grooves, Supergrass still knows how to get feet tapping. Spunkier tracks like the aptly titled “Kick in the Teeth” and the bouncy “Sad Girl” are reminiscent of Supergrass’s earlier work and a welcome transition between Rouen’s slower musings and five-minute songs. But after the last track ends, it’s clear that Supergrass have a case of wanderlust. Whatever path they’re on, they certainly deserve to find whatever it is they’re searching for.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars