Release Date: Jan 19, 2010
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
On a busman’s holiday from Supergrass, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey kick out the cover jams as the Hotrats. The very presence of Nigel Godrich, producer of Radiohead and Beck, is a pretty good tip-off that their 2010 album, Turn Ons, isn’t quite the straight-ahead romp as it may initially seem. Sometimes Turn Ons is as heady as its title, traveling down some trippy side roads -- appropriately so in a cover of the Doors’ “Crystal Ship” -- and sometimes turning songs inside out, envisioning “Up the Junction” as a psychedelic lament, and recasting two perennially snotty anthems of rebellion, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and “EMI,” as clever acoustic-based rockers, but this ain’t an art project shepherded by Godrich, this is a noisy rock & roll party that’s over and out in just over a half-hour.
Supergrass, to the extent to which they have any kind of stateside reputation, exist in the minds of many as a Britpop also-ran. Not as intellectual as Blur in their heyday, nor as thuggish and brash as Oasis, Supergrass managed to find a scruffier, more playful kind of arena-ready simplicity that allowed them to avoid any bloated catastrophes like Be Here Now. Turn Ons, by Supergrass offshoot the Hot Rats, manages to retain that same sensibility.
What's more fun than singing your favorite songs? It's the basic tenet that accounts for the entire karaoke industry, the success of Rock Band, and the never-ending career of Rod Stewart-- though, naturally, the enjoyment one derives from singing their favorite songs is often inversely related to an audience's desire to hear them do it. Still, that hasn't stopped countless artists from resorting to the all-covers album when they find themselves at a career crossroads or in search of renewed inspiration. When executed effectively-- through savvy song selection, inventive rearrangements, and authoritative vocal performances that allow the singer to reclaim the song as their own-- the all-covers album can introduce veteran artists to new audiences (Johnny Cash's American Recordings series), open up new avenues for future exploration (Nick Cave's Kicking Against the Pricks), or deconstruct an enigma (David Bowie's Pin Ups).
Despite promising little, Turn Ons proves to be quite the diverting delight. Mike Diver 2010 Supergrass were one of the very best bands to emerge from the country’s infatuation with Britpop in the 1990s. Three excellent albums – I Should Coco, In It for the Money, a self-titled third – between 95 and 99 ensured that, while Oasis and Blur hogged the headlines, the trio of Danny Goffey, Mick Quinn and triumphantly hirsute vocalist Gaz Coombes (later joined by Rob Coombes) met the new millennium with the best tunes.