Taste is quite an unusual thing to profess to have an awareness of from a very early age. I was in the CD store only yesterday and picked up a copy of Ryan Adams’ Gold, an album I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. And that was exactly when I remembered that the first time I even looked beyond Heartbreaker was when someone older who I really looked up to picked this record as one of his favourites of the first millennium decade for our poll at the end of 2009. It’s kind of similar to how I feel about Supergrass, whom I may have discovered through related artists through the course of my teenage life but whom I only really got into when a friend who was far more esoteric than I bought a copy of their third album for me for my birthday. At the time, cut-price CD stores were booming and we were all-discovering classics for the first time for a third of the price we’d been paying for them previously. In one brief summer, I bought all four Supergrass albums that were released at the time, inamongst a slew of others. The fact that I could go to the beach and then walk into a store and pick up an album for $9.99 seemed like the biggest, most amazing swindle ever. None of these were particularly ‘new’; I Should Coco, the album from whence this song emerged, had come out in 1995, and we’re talking about December 2003. But it was ownership at a cost-effective price point, and I totally loved it. I seriously gave up hamburgers for CDs for a few days back then. By today’s standards, those records were phenomenally overpriced. They were new, but they were old. And who was I, some punk teenager to espouse the values of learning from music from the past?
Supergrass don’t exist anymore. There aren’t any policemen coming to lock them up (‘Caught By The Fuzz’), drinking tea and feeling nice and green (‘Alright’) or whatever else it was they babbled on about as young lads on I Should Coco, which made them very famous very quickly, primarily because they were more fun than Blur and not as grandoise as Oasis and they presumably liked drugs, too. This record is the ultimate adrenalin rush, kind of like the feeling I had inside that fateful Bondi Dirt Cheap CDs outlet, assuming I stole everything and kicked the manager swiftly on the way out. It’s fast and loose, the mixing is rough and in your face, and somehow through all of it, you can hear the great harmonies that would become the band’s trademark on later records shining out amid the jackhammering. The verses in the songs here are so short that even a kid with attention difficulties would grasp them, the choruses typically repeat the same phrase over and over again and the whole thing is backed by drums and guitars that seep out of every available orifice with absolutely no regard for tact. Stretched out, songs like ‘I’d Like To Know’ could be serious, Beatles-esque opuses, and after their astonighingly great self-titled third album, it became clear that this was precisely what frontman Gaz Coombes’ was playing at all along. But for now, the tempo and the excitement.
‘I’d Like To Know’ was somehow not one of the five successful singles released in a row from this album, which is beyond me because I still maintain its one of the best – and that’s why it’s the first song you hear when you press play. While obviously not as thick in the collective zeitgeist as ‘Fuzz’ or as wantonly sampled and decorated as ‘Alright’ (see: every ad and movie ever), it has oodles of charm and listening to it properly, you can really see where Alex Turner and a second-time around Alex Kapranos got their post-millennial mojo from. The best part is, this is a raucous rock song that is completely lucid while having crazy people as its’ dedicated subject matter . The two-chord progression is ornamented by some sort of spazzing organ sound that literally sound like an angry child mashing a seventh, which is certainly aided by those sing-song call and responses that go something like ‘la la la ooh la la.’ Like all great rock acts of the ’60s and ’70s, who everybody immediately assumed Supergrass were ripping off, Coombes, Coffey and co. knew that the easiest way to get people to remember shit at shows was to work with onomatopoeia, which worked for every girl band, pop act and James Brown for years. They also soon figured out that if they strummed bar chords with enough precision and sang well enough in tune, originality, or at least the conception of it, could go fuck itself. It’s that attitude that makes ‘I’d Like To Know’ such a great time; it is what it is, and just when you think you have it sorted, it brings out it’s own delicate classic-rock masterstroke in the last minute and a half that laid down the gauntlet to pretty much everyone. The bass goes up and sideways instead of down, the guitar solos suddenly assume a ferocious literacy and if you weren’t paying attention, you certainly are now. Even after they’ve kicked the bucket and Coombes has gone solo, Supergrass circa 1995 continue to surprise and delight me.
Isn’t that all you want from your $9.99?
Supergrass – ‘I’d Like To Know’