Release Date: May 21, 2012
Record label: Hot Fruit
In the Britpop race, Supergrass weren’t so much the fat kids lagging at the back as the weirdos that ran in the wrong direction. It’s easy to forget how good they actually were. With ‘Here Come The Bombs’, frontman Gaz Coombes does a surprisingly adept job of retaining the band’s oddball pop sensibility, but shaping it into something that’s, if not mature, then at least slightly less frivolously young and free.
Say this for Gaz Coombes: he's unafraid to have his solo debut, Here Come the Bombs, be a grand departure from his previous gig as leader of Supergrass. That Brit-pop trio specialized in melodic exuberance, a quality conspicuously lacking on the willfully elliptical Here Come the Bombs, a record so hazy it feels about twice as long as its tight 38-minute run time. Such a thick fuzziness is deliberate, as Coombes embraces the opportunity to get far out, to have his basslines turn elastic, to have rhythms fold in on their careening echoes, to layer on distortion and then peel it away.
If you’re a Supergrass fan, then you may have been “hotly anticipating”, as they say, the first solo album from the frontman of the now defunct Britpop powerhouse. Supergrass officially disbanded due to those oft-invoked “creative differences” in 2010, two years after their last (sixth) album, Diamond Hoo Ha, and shelving the album in progress, the still unreleased Release the Drones. The last couple albums released were good, but lesser than the earlier work.
Having previously positioned himself and his hirsute chops firmly in the DNA of Nineties Britpop, Gaz Coombes is back, sans band, but with more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Here Come the Bombs is a succinct affair clocking in at under 40 minutes, and a production that sees Gaz assuming all instrumental duties. It’s also, in places at least, wildly different from the six records Supergrass released over their 16-year-career; samples, electronics and loops permeate the record, as do switching time signatures and experimental chord progressions.
No matter how far Gaz Coombes has travelled from the days when no festival bill was complete without Supergrass chirping out Alright, he can't escape his gift for writing songs with hooks you can hang a coat on. His debut solo album is packed with them, starting with Bombs, which links one of his wooziest, prettiest melodies to a lyric that gets inside the "mind" of a bomb as it falls to earth: "What a lonely view as I tear away, breaking sound, speeding down. " You get the feeling, from the electronic curlicues, guitar-distortion and guttural dance beats that crop up throughout the album, that Coombes would have loved to ditch the choruses and devote the entire record to off-piste experimenting (the six-minute Universal Cinema, which begins acoustically and gradually cranks up the distortion, shows a musical mindset no longer informed by chart positions).
Erstwhile Supergrass frontman returns with beguiling and widespread solo album. Ian Winwood 2012 It is a depressing prospect, but in just a few years it will be time to begin celebrating – definition: getting misty eyed over a dog-eared copy of Definitely Maybe and wondering why a Ben Sherman shirt purchased in 1994 no longer fits – that most exhilirating periods of British popular music, The Britpop Years. Due reverence will be given to Noel, to Damon, to Jarvis and to Thom, as a whole host of critics and other ‘industry experts’ recall battles to get to number one, cocaine-fuelled fall-outs and a night at the BRITS when Mr Cocker invaded a stage belonging to Michael Jackson.
It is easy to forget how big a star Gaz Coombes was in the heady Britpop years of the mid-nineties. Supergrass were Britpop’s prime purveyors of knock about punk and idiosyncratic indie but unlike Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn and a rejuvenated Brett Andersoon, Coombes has rather fallen off the radar since Supergrass quietly petered out in 2010. It is a perfect time then for Coombes to return with a beguiling debut as he looks to assert himself as a solo artist.Unencumbered by the pressures of being a part of an established group, ‘Here Come The Bombs’ sees Coombes broadening his sound with a degree of playful sonic experimentation.