If you traveled to various corners of the world, played word association with its far-flung inhabitants and said, “Britpop,” the majority would respond “Oasis.” You might get some competition from Blur and others on the continent or in Japan, but Oasis is the Britpop representative best-known in the USA, and the USA has nuclear-level marketing reach.
Note that the word “nuclear” was carefully chosen and is intended to convey all its meanings.
I’ve already reviewed all their studio albums, but I couldn’t do a Britpop series justice without including Oasis. Luckily, I had their concert album in my back pocket, where they cover nearly all their hits from the Britpop era.
My review of Familiar to Millions is somewhat colored by my experience: I have seen Oasis live four times in my brief existence:
- June 19, 1997, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California: I loathe outdoor stadium concerts and despised the Be Here Now album, but they were in town, I could get there on BART, I’d never seen them, so what the fuck. The sound wasn’t great and the thing I remember most was Liam wearing white tennis shoes that were terribly unsexy.
- August 6, 2000, Arlene Schnitzler Concert Hall, Portland, Oregon: A wealthy dermatologist I was dating took me for my nineteenth birthday. He really went all out—we flew first class, had Dom Perignon waiting for us at the Benson Hotel and sat in second-row seats for Oasis. I returned the favor with a couple of thank-you fucks, dated him for another couple of months but ended it before he could give me a Tiffany engagement ring for Christmas. Nice guy, good-looking, shallow as a rain puddle, entire identity wrapped around his wealth and status. As for Oasis, they put on a great performance despite the weak material from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants—the set list on this live album is pretty close to what I heard that night, minus the crowd size and energy of Wembley. At this stage in their career, Oasis was no longer considered a top-tier band in the States, and were generally booked for venues in the 3000 to 5000 seat range. I liked that.
- September 9, 2005, Everett Events Center, Everett, Washington: This was a flight on my own dime and worth every penny—this was the Don’t Believe the Truth concert and I consider that album to be their masterpiece. They were on fire from the get-go and never let up, with the presence of Zak Starkey on drums infinitely improving the band’s tightness and punch. The venue was hardly top-tier and I remember Noel asking the crowd, “We were told we’d be playing Seattle—where the fuck is this place?”
- August 26, 2008, WaMu Theatre, Seattle: This took place after I moved to Seattle. The venue sucked—it felt more like a school cafeteria than a theatre. Oasis management seriously fucked up on this one—the band prepared a setlist heavy on songs from Dig Out Your Soul and the geniuses who set up the tour scheduled several concerts before the album was released! Though I was hearing several of the songs for the first time, “Shock of the Lightning” left quite an impression.
I also saw Beady Eye at the Showbox in Seattle on November 30, 2011. I recall that a member of the audience almost lost his member after slapping me in the ass and that it took Liam about six songs to find the right key. Despite the presence of three Oasis alumni, Beady Eye did not play a single Oasis number, but their first album was energetic enough to make for a relatively satisfying experience.
Oasis has been called a working-class band, and they certainly lived up to that label in concert. Oasis concerts feature very little in the way of pyrotechnics and nothing in the way of choreography—they pretty much just fucking play. Liam’s singing stance rarely varies: he puts his hands behind his back, twists his torso a bit, leans forward into the mike and sings. Noel is usually stage left with his guitars at the ready. The only “additional entertainment” is found in the song introductions, which fall into three categories: perfunctory, unintelligible or insulting (the insults are directed at random people in the audience). They rarely invite crowd participation because they usually don’t need to—the crowd at an Oasis concert consider themselves one of the largest choruses ever assembled, and they join in from the get-go.
Familiar to Millions primarily consists from the performances at Wembley on June 21, 2000, with some vocal overdubs inserted from other concerts in spots where Liam fucked up the lyrics. He always fucked up the second verse of “Acquiesce,” insisting on the documentary DVD for Don’t Believe the Truth that he’d never heard that verse in his life, in defiance of recorded evidence to the contrary. I don’t think anyone has found the Rosetta Stone that holds the key to Liam’s brain; I’ve always thought of him as intuitive-emotional and rather “childlike,” with all the blessings and curses associated with that adjective. When he’s in the mood, though, he’s one of the best rock vocalists on record, and for most of Familiar to Millions, he’s in the mood.
His brother told The Daily Telegraph, “I like to think I keep it real. Liam keeps it surreal, and somewhere between the two we get on all right.” Noel’s feet are generally more firmly attached to terra firma, but he also has the tendency to say whatever is on his mind and you can go fuck yourself if you’ve got a problem with that, mate. He is eminently quotable, the master of the sound bite with bite, oscillating between self-deprecation and self-promotion. He has described his guitar-playing at “average at fucking best,” but sends modesty on holiday with observations like, “Look. I was a superhero in the ’90s. I said so at the time. McCartney, Weller, Townshend, Richards, my first album’s better than all their first albums. Even they’d admit that.” Putting aside his arrogance and aggressive defensiveness (adjectives that apply equally to both brothers), Noel Gallagher managed to write some of the greatest songs of the era and never wavered in his commitment to the sadly dying art of guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll.
People who don’t care for Oasis tell me it has more to do with the Gallagher Brothers being assholes than the music; some people won’t even listen to Oasis because of the assholity factor. Having struggled through a love-hate relationship with Oasis for twenty-odd years, I can appreciate those feelings, but what frustrates me is not so much their boorishness but their bipolar tendencies. That is not a clinical diagnosis, but an observation of a pattern of good boy/bad boy behavior present throughout their history—a pattern demonstrated on this particular album. The Wembley concert was part of the tour to promote the album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants—an album title that acknowledges the band’s debt to The Beatles and the other great British bands of the 60’s. Then again, who but Oasis would give their live album a title like Familiar to Millions? Even if it’s true, why the fuck do you want to go there?
Sigh. Enough psychologizing. All I know is this: whenever I’ve seen Oasis live, I forget all about that crap and sing along at the top of my lungs with everybody else.
Let’s get on with it! One last note: in addition to the album, you can get a DVD with the entire gig and various “special features.” The sound on the DVD isn’t as good as the CD or the vinyl (which Discogs currently priced at $397.33), but the review includes references to what’s happening on stage when I think it’s helpful.
A tape of “Fucking in the Bushes” would become the standard call to arms opening Oasis concerts, the pounding drums and ripping guitar a signal to those off taking a piss that they’ve got three minutes to get their asses back to where the action is. During the intro, the cameras pans the crowd, a rather scrawny looking bunch obviously thrilled to see their heroes. Displaying a complete lack of attention to the finer points of fashion, Liam struts on stage wearing hippie-style shades and a blue denim jacket over a hoodie while Noel appears in what looks like a thick brown shirt pulled from the back of his closet over a pinkish top. Liam warms up the crowd with typical ramblings, saying something about a “shithole” and “Hello, Manchester.” With everyone in place, Alan White dutifully plays the drum intro to “Go Let It Out,” the lead single from the album. Liam betrays his excitement through his off-kilter breathing rhythm, but the crowd of around 80,000 people don’t notice because they’re already singing at the tops of their lungs. When the bass is called on to join in, the audience goes nuts, as they should—Andy Bell is a hundred times the bass player Guigsy was. The highlight of the performance is when Liam sings the line, “Ordinary people that are like you and me,” pointing to self then audience to emphasize common roots. Second new band member Gem Archer joins in the fun by delivering the first guitar solo, handing it over to Noel on his Gibson Les Paul for the second passage. Although it’s far from my favorite Oasis song, “Go Let It Out” gets the job done, leaving the crowd in the early stages of ecstasy.
Noel switches to the Rickenbacker for the second track on the Standing album, the drone song, “Who Feels Love,” supported by non-member Zeben Jameson on synthesizer. I mentioned in my review of that album that the studio version is a pale imitation of the live version, and listening to this album confirms what I heard in Portland. Bass whore that I am, I thrill to the deep, filling sound of Andy Bell’s bass in the same way I thrill to the deep, filling feeling of a hard one stretching my vaginal walls. Oasis would become masters of the drone song as demonstrated on Dig Out Your Soul and their surprisingly strong cover of “Within You, Without You,” and in this context it serves to get the rhythm section in sync and ready to rock.
Our first trip down memory lane begins when Liam announces “Supersonic.” The crowd immediately begins to move their butts along with the opening drum beat, breaking out into an ecstatic cry of pleasure when Noel delivers the arpeggiated intro. EVERYONE is singing the quirky lyrics at the top of their lungs, as if they’ve been holding back the orgasm for just the right moment. The band immediately launches into “Shakermaker,” a song I’ve always loathed, but I have to admit they play it very well here, rocking hard enough to make me temporarily forget that the song is based on a fucking Coke commercial.
Right on cue, Liam fucks up the lyrics to “Acquiesce,” but fortunately his part is relegated to the verses while his brother sings the far more important chorus. You can hear the difference in the crowd vocals—the sing-along isn’t quite as strong as it was on the previous two songs, but when Noel steps up to the mike and delivers his lines in an exceptionally clear voice, the accompanying chorus rises to a new dynamic peak:
Because we need each other
We believe in one another
I know we’re gonna discover
What’s sleeping in our soul
Noel literally saves the day here, leaving the crowd in a state of post-orgasmic delight.
Liam heads off for a smoke and a piss while Noel takes the lead on the Stevie Wonder imitation song, “Step Out.” While I appreciate the way he and Gem kick ass on the guitar parts, I always get distracted in the chorus, which is a musical duplication of “Uptight.” Liam finds his way back to the stage for the third song from Standing, the meh piece “Gas Panic.” Unlike me, the crowd seems to enjoy itself, but this is the part of the concert where I follow Liam’s example and head to the wings for physiological relief. I return to the sound of Noel telling a guy in the audience, “If she starts getting out of line, slap her,” followed by an energetic rendition of “Roll With It.” Neither Noel’s sentiments nor the song bring a smile to my face, but I get over it when I see a woman with exposed DD-cup bubs displaying her assets while perched on the shoulders of strapping young lad. There had been some unintelligible stage banter about tits earlier in the program, perhaps inspiring the young lady to liberate her fabulous knockers from bondage and share them with the world—and for that, we can all be grateful.
“Stand By Me” gets the crowd back in focus, with the slowly spinning hypnotic lights serving to soften and sweeten the accompanying vocals. Liam gives one of his best performances of the night, and as the camera zooms in, you can see the sweat on his neck and lengthy mane. Noel slaps a capo on the second fret (funny, I always thought it was supposed to be the third fret) for “Wonderwall,” with the audience response meter hitting the red zone. I think the response here has to do with their love of the song itself and nothing to do with Liam’s rather sloppy delivery. The song is so iconic that it could stand the mangling, but really, Liam should have risen to the moment and treated this song with due respect.
Once again, Noel rescues his brother with a long low-string tease on the Les Paul that ends when he climbs atop the monitors and delivers the equally iconic opening riff to “Cigarettes and Alcohol.” Apparently panicked that his brother has taken him out of the limelight, Liam responds to the challenge with a strong and playful vocal accompanied by his energetic tambourine, earning himself full forgiveness. I respond enthusiastically to the editorial aside he inserts after “But all I found is cigarettes and alcohol,” where, with unusually precise diction he observes, “Which isn’t a bad thing!” “Fuck yeah!” I respond in unladylike fashion. The crowd sings with guilt-free delight to a great performance of one of the great rock songs of all time.
Noel introduces the next song by visually demonstrating the size of his johnson by holding his outstretched hands far beyond his shoulders, dedicating the piece to “everyone with a little dick.” That might seem like a rather crass way to introduce one of the most beautiful and enduring works of the Britpop era, but there you have it. Once Jameson enters with the instantly-recognized piano introduction to “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” the audience responds in a unified voice tempered with affection and get themselves ready for their greatest performance of the night.
While Noel is in exceptionally fine voice, your attention is immediately drawn to the responding intensity of the collective vocals from the audience. What’s truly stunning is that they’re not just singing at the top of their lungs but varying their dynamics with each line, lowering and raising their voices in all the right places. They start out strong on the opening lines, back off during the pre-chorus transition, then take deep, justifiable pleasure in belting out one of the great belt-out lines of all time—“You ain’t ever going to burn my heart out.” What happens next is absolutely magical—Noel, sensing that the crowd’s got this one, drops out of the picture entirely and lets the audience take the entire chorus. Stimulated by the sounds of their collective voices, they raise their volume even higher to indicate their acceptance of the challenge. It is a thrilling moment that never fails to bring tears to my eyes, as does the stop-time closing passage where the audience solos on the coda (“Don’t look back in anger/Don’t look back in anger/I heard you say”), then Noel repeats the coda to light guitar accompaniment. While the applause rolls across the stadium, he ends the song gently on that sweet line, “At least not today.” Even for the brash and often bombastic Noel Gallagher, that kind of validation for songwriter and song had to be a deeply satisfying experience.
Nothing can possibly top that collective performance, but Liam gives it a shot with “Live Forever,” one of Oasis’ contributions to the youth movement sub-theme of Britpop. The song is well-played and Liam is excellent voice, but I’m still feeling the after-effects of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and can’t process it. Liam has already initiated the bullshit ritual associated with encores by announcing “Live Forever” as “the last song,” but I think the ruse would have been more effective had the band walked off after “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and left the audience begging frantically and sincerely for more.
As it is, Oasis doesn’t take the audience to higher levels of excitement during the three-song encore, making it something of a disappointment. The cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My” was an odd choice that inspired only obligatory applause. Liam’s rendition of “Champagne Supernova” is excellent, but it’s a song designed to evoke nostalgic regret rather than raise one’s spirits. The concert ends with the first song on their first album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” where Oasis leaves it all on the stage in one last solid rock ‘n’ roll thrust before strolling off the stage.
For reasons both unknown and incomprehensible, the album compilers added an 18th track from a concert that took place on the other side of the world (in Florida, of all places) two months before Wembley—their cover of “Helter Skelter.” What the fuck, people? Not only does this unattached appendage interfere with the experience of closure we all want to feel at the end of a concert, but the Oasis version of “Helter Skelter” certainly isn’t going to make anyone forget about Paul McCartney’s last foray into manic rock.
Familiar to Millions came out a few years after the Britpop obituaries started coming out, so one has to wonder if the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd to the old favorites was a manifestation of nostalgia, a word defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” While that may have been operating on some level for some people, I don’t think nostalgia had much to do with the audience response. I’ve noticed that songs that bring up memories of my wayward teens are clearly period pieces with no enduring value whatsoever, rather like the colorful iMacs and retro fashions of the mid-to-late 90’s. I ran this theory by my parents, and both agreed that listening to the Beatles, Kinks or Stones doesn’t trigger any longing for black lights, granny glasses or sit-ins, but hearing one-hit wonders like Barry McGuire and the Strawberry Alarm Clock does.
No, the people singing the hosannas you hear on Familiar to Millions aren’t indulging in sweet memories of exuberant youth, but expressing deep appreciation for great songs that inspire full-throated listener accompaniment. That’s as true for Oasis as it is for Pulp, Blur, Supergrass, Suede and other Britpop artists who rose above the era’s hype to create compelling music that will live forever.
In the previous episode, our heroic young lads had emphatically declined Steven Spielberg’s offer to become the 90’s version of The Monkees, making the preternaturally wise decision to head to the studio and record their second album. Prior to the recording, the darlings of Britpop had toured for eighteen months, during which time I am quite certain they purported themselves with the utmost propriety and decorum.
Funny things happen when people hang out together in close quarters for too long, and sure enough, Supergrass entered the studio bickering with each other over the usual silly shit bands bicker over—girlfriends, loyalties, the label, the album title, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. Having only come into the studio with two songs, they had a lot of work to do, and really didn’t need all the interpersonal noise.
Meanwhile, questions abounded! Would the sudden stardom, long months of touring with the utmost propriety and decorum and the desperate cries of fans who wanted to hear I Should Coco, Part Two break the spirit of our dear boys, rendering them klutzes in the studio and making them regret blowing off that lucrative deal with Spielberg? Or could our heroes overcome the self-imposed difficulties, the enormous weight of expectations from their label masters and the listening public as well as the dreaded jinx of the sophomore slump to produce a work worthy of the name Supergrass?
Fuck yes! In It for the Money is WAY better than I Should Coco. Supergrass lets it rip on In It for the Money, combining hard, punk and melodic rock in a power-packed lo-fi extravaganza slightly softened with the occasional acoustic arrangement and a touch of soft jazz. While it doesn’t have the relentlessness or social consciousness of Rancid’s And Out Come the Wolves, In It from the Money certainly qualifies as one of the stronger rock records of the decade. Cute was completely abandoned for an edgier, sexier feel, a shift confirmed by two vitally important data points: I have zero songs from I Should Coco on my fuck playlists, and four from In It for the Money. The best rock ‘n’ roll puts you in the mood to grind, and In It for the Money hits the sweet spot.
On the flip slide, there aren’t too many quality records that begin and end as weakly as In It for the Money—it’s a custard-filled maple bar with all the good stuff in the middle. The title track opens the album, a piece that comes across as three fragments rudely patched together—the first almost gothic, the second a rather unimaginative attempt at a build and the third a harmonic rock segment that plays more to their strengths but doesn’t fit lyrically or musically with the other two parts. The closing track, “Sometimes I Make You Sad,” is an experimental disaster, featuring a heavily filtered Gaz Coombes vocal that sounds like he’s singing from the bottom of a toilet. I fully understand and respect their desire to do a 180º and distance themselves from their status as the band responsible for “Alright,” but they could have achieved that more effectively by deleting those two tracks, placing “Richard III” in the pole position and closing with “Hollow Little Reign.”
“Richard III” has nothing to do with the king whose death at Bosworth Field ended the silly Wars of the Roses . . . or with the fact that he wasn’t really a hunchback . . . or with the fact that he did some good for the common people . . . or even with the high likelihood that he was a scheming, murderous asshole. The sparse lyrics seem to address the futility of escape from the humdrum of daily life, but really, the music is what matters, and opening with the dissonant chord combination and punk sensibility of “Richard III” certainly dispelled any notion that the boys wanted to hang out in adolescence beyond their years.
That dissonant chord combination begins by alternating the root chord with the flatted fifth chord (A to D#), creating an edgy, delightfully evil sound. They double-down on the odd chord strategy early by using a C-D-D#-F rise as the lead-in to the all-out bash rhythm of the verse, inserting a non-sensical off-key minor scale into the mix. The effect of this unexpected sequence is equivalent to the excitement of rough foreplay, as in “Don’t fiddle with the buttons, baby, I’ll just rip it off,” and following it with relentless drive tells me these fuckers (figuratively speaking) mean business. If Supergrass had chosen to continue the song in the same vein, “Richard III” would be remembered solid punk song with a little flair, but they change positions (again, figuratively) for the chorus, moving to a C-G#-G combination where Gaz bends the blue notes in his vocal like a man in heat.
I know you wanna try and get away,
But it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever know.
Read those lines in the context of sex and try to tell me there isn’t some serious double entendre going on here! I don’t make this shit up, people! When Gaz Coombes repeats the line, “Trying to get atcha, tryin’ to get atcha,” my diddle goes all a-flutter—so much so that the appearance of a Theramin in the instrumental break fails to register until well after the song is over and “Good Vibrations” comes to mind during the post-fuck cigarette. No one in the band slacks off for this one—Danny Goffey beats the crap out of those drums, Mick Quinn fills the ground with penetrating bass and Gaz cranks out hot guitar and an even hotter vocal, navigating the strange scales with cocky passion (double entendre intended).
We leave the sweaty mosh pit for the sweaty dance floor as soon as we hear the clever opening guitar riff of “Tonight.” Gaz opens with a Keith Richards-like guitar attack, making things more interesting by avoiding the flatted third of the blues scale until he shifts from A to D. The chorus involves yet another unusual key change to F major; and the bridge gives us another with its D-A-C-G pattern. As mentioned in my review of I Should Coco, Supergrass was one of the best when it came to making unusual chord changes, and this skill is on full display throughout the album. As the song heads towards the fade, the band pulls back and allows a horn section with supporting to piano to add some texture and give any dancers in the audience time to recharge the batteries for the high-speed sock-hop style finish. “Tonight” is probably more suited for the grind of a rock club environment than the heavy bruising in the mosh pit, but hey, I’m always ready to rock to whatever you’ve got!
Even the heartiest rockers need to shake it up from time to time, but what we don’t need is light and cheerful (aka “Alright”) . . . we need something with a little soul in it. “Late in the Day” fits the bill, starting as an acoustic love song and ending more along the lines of a rock ballad. The chord changes are again magnificent and off-the-norm, with the main pattern taking a roundabout path through a set of on-and-off-key major seventh and basic chords to find its way back to the root. The beat picks up in the chorus, and the alternating tempos and keys somehow combine to form a holistic composition. The lyrics aren’t much to write home about (except for the tantalizing line, “We’d slip off down the oily way,” which is probably only tantalizing to a filthy mind like mine), but Gaz takes control with an appropriately moody vocal and brings this one home a winner.
“G-Song” brings back a little oomph to the party in the form of a bouncy rocker enhanced with rhythmic variation and a key change in the break. Early-stage Supergrass seemed to suffer from some kind of phobia when it came to song and album titles: “G-Song” is named after the song’s key; “Richard III” reflects their habit of applying common names to songs (Richard, Fred, Brunhilde, whatever); and the album’s title was selected by the record company after getting fed up with the band’s procrastination in the matter. It’s more of a quirk than anything seriously disturbing (a far cry from Keith Moon driving a Rolls into a Holiday Inn swimming pool), but does tend to echo their relative indifference to lyrics at this stage in their career.
“Sun Hits the Sky” features a simpler chord pattern in the verses (F-Eb, G-F), placing the emphasis on the driving beat instead of the chords. Yet another brilliant chord change occurs in the chorus where the band shifts to D major, offsetting the D-A dominant pattern with an extended stay in G minor. The lyrics are typically opaque but I love the way the words sound, especially in the chorus:
I am a doctor, I’ll be your doctor,
I’m on my way, you won’t come down today,
Live for the right things, be with the right ones,
Or they’ll hold you down, they’ll turn your world around.
The Beatles were particularly strong in that skill, and since Supergrass music at this point in their careers was message-light, coming up with euphonious lyrics was critical to their success. Early Supergrass songs are easy to sing along with, especially if you don’t mind that the words don’t add up to much.
“Going Out” is a mid-tempo rocker integrating organ and a horn section with close harmonies that are quite Beatle-esque. This is the song that led to a spat between Gaz and Danny, with the latter accusing the former of writing lyrics designed to exploit the tabloids’ exploitation of Danny’s romantic goings-on with Pearl Lowe (who eventually became his wife). Danny must have been hypersensitive about the whole thing, for the lyrics are pretty much a nothingburger, a mild warning that the paparazzi will catch up with you sooner or later, at home or on the club circuit. Compared to Ray Davies’ “Other People’s Lives,” it’s not much of a diatribe. Putting all that noise behind, “Going Out” is a pleasant experience, a catchy tune with a strong beat, suggesting that Danny therapeutically took out most of his anger on the drum skins.
Supergrass dials it down for “It’s Not Me,” a reflective song dominated by acoustic guitar strumming supported by piano and a horribly annoying synthesizer that comes close to ruining the entire piece. From a melodic perspective, I find “It’s Not Me” the loveliest song on the album, with Gaz revealing impressive range and sufficient command of the emotional content in the lyrics. It’s a classic coming-of-age story where one learns that expanding awareness of the surrounding culture engenders feelings of separation and isolation—the differentiation between self and expectation. There have been a gazillion songs written on this topic, but I get the sense that this one didn’t come out of the pop formula playbook but reflects Gaz Coombes’ sincere feelings during a time of life transition—a transition made more difficult by his presence in the public eye.
Another great chord sequence accompanied by a rhythmic shift awaits us in “Cheapskate,” one of a more subtle variety involving the simple difference in tone between minor and major chords. The verses consist entirely of A minor variants, and minor chords always feel a bit “off,” communicating sadness, wistfulness, edginess or unrequited desire. The lyrics in the verses are therefore entirely appropriate, as they describe a tension shared by Gaz and his companion, both of whom feel a bit “off” in relation to society:
Lift me up, and move a bit closer,
Holding on to what I know
She’s the one who plays with fire,
I see a side you’ll never know
The chorus marks a shift to the A major chord, and as major chords tend to be uplifting, we goddamn better get some uplifting lyrics—and we do:
I need someone to be around,
‘Cause I’m breaking into life,
Somebody stop me,
‘Cause I’m looking for my, looking for my high
That rise in spirit is intensified by a rhythmic change from loping to driving and the emphatic appearance of electric guitar in distortion mode. Often the simplest moves are the most effective (she insists for about the hundredth time, thank you Count Basie), and the excitement that results from that tiny change from the flatted third to the major third is palpable—it’s hard not to want to stand up, jump in and sing along.
While this attention to a single note change in a chord may seem excessive, its importance will be underscored when we get to Pulp’s This Is Hardcore and hear an example of a songwriter completely blowing it.
The next two songs foretell a mellower, moodier future for Supergrass, songs that serve as precursors to Supergrass and Road to Rouen. “You Can See Me” is a melancholy minor key piece about the disconnection between public figure and real person, and the corresponding insistence among fans that the public figure is the real person and therefore both knowable and available for purchase. “If you like me, you can buy me, and take me home,” Gaz writes, as if his person is embodied in Supergrass merchandise. While he tries to remind the fanatics, “You can’t see me, I’m not really there,” his tone indicates he knows he has embarked on an exercise in futility. “You Can See Me” wasn’t a single and doesn’t generate much discussion today, but from a lyrical perspective, it’s the strongest piece on the album.
“Hollow Little Reign,” which should have closed the album, has also unfortunately languished in obscurity. It’s a mellow piece with jazz and funk overtones emanating from the Gm/Am11 pairing, wah-wah guitar and piano backing from Rob Coombes. This piece also uses a minor to major transition to highlight the hope in the one-line chorus (“some day when I can”), a hope immediately tempered by following the C major chord with an F minor. Danny does a fabulous job with the drum builds, and though I would have liked to hear a bit more in the way of innovation from the horn section, the extended instrumental passages are a net positive.
In referring to In It for the Money during an interview with Q magazine, Gaz commented thusly: “The fact that it has sold more worldwide than I Should Coco means we can sleep at night.” Going harder and grittier risked alienating the fan base, but the album’s success proved that what originally attracted fans to Supergrass wasn’t their cuteness but their irrepressible energy. That energy allowed them to overcome the bad vibes and noise, move their music forward and produce what would turn out to be one of the last great albums of the Britpop era.
With Blur having already moved on and Suede preparing to do the same, Britpop would die a horrible death within a year thanks to a combination of the Gallagher Brothers, Jarvis Cocker and a whole lot of cocaine.