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It’s been a real dilemma. How do you get from being a cheeky little monkey with big sideburns - inhabiting a small world where everything's alright, and youthful, youthful, youthful - through the inevitable, as it is problematical, artistic adolescence of the second and third albums; while reaching the other side relatively unscathed. Change too much and you risk alienating your core audience - don't change at all and you stifle personal development, while everyone has moved onwards and upwards to pastures new.
Gaz and the boys appeared to have the difficult process, if not completely sussed, then certainly under control. However, this single suggests there are some dark clouds gathering on the horizon. The smokescreen of the we're now such grown-up artists they're banning us self-made controversy of the accompanying video - where any talk of the other side simply refers to the series of cod horror images, is reinforced by the turgid horror of Mary itself. From supernatural kitsch to superdad rock moves. Where does this leave the natural spirit of Supergrass? Well, Dear Confused of Oxford…
The tracks may be live but their high-energy vibe is now resoundingly hollow and a flimsy cloak for the general lack of ideas. Mary is rancid, rockist, and decidedly rocky. The admirably pert musicianship that has always been a part of the Supergrass scene, and an essential element of their playful cocksure attitude, has gained a vapid ocean colour that exhibits the early stages of terminal fuctionality. Keep this up and they will always remain small faces.
Live performances of Richard III and Sun Hits The Sky have much the same manic energy - displayed for its own sake and leading precisely nowhere. The former's sub-punk thrash has a certain spunky insouciance, spliced against Gaz's sour-faced strut and trademark woo woos. The latter a groove-along, chug-a-lug that renders the soaring solar imagery obsolete. Sun? Sky? Shit, hit and fan more like.
As Supergrass: The Awkward Years reaches the end of its unheralded run, a less than concerned nation waits to see whether the cheeky chappies can aspire to rock's version of adulthood with their credibility intact. Triumphant sequel or Supergrass: The Wilderness Years? Let it (rock and) roll.
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