My two favorite album titles of the year were released in the same week. One was Martha Wainwright’s I Know You’re Married, But I Have Feelings Too and the other was Supergrass’ Diamond Hoo Ha. I’m not sure if `Hoo Ha’ shares the same connotation in the UK as it does in the US. Here, it’s a G-rated slang term for a woman’s privates. In fact, there was a small town that wanted to replace the world `vagina’ in the local production of The Vagina Monologues with `Hoo Ha.’ Ridiculous. Aside from the title, the second thing that caught my attention was, `Wow. Supergrass is still going strong.’ When the then trio debuted their first single in 1994, many lumped them in with Britpop, and as such, many thought they would fade with the other Britpop mainstays. Oasis has become a mirage, Blur hasn’t seemed to come into focus after losing Graham Coxon, and Pulp stopped squeezing out albums seven years ago.
But Supergrass wasn’t exactly like those bands back then, and they’re certainly not like them now. Diamond Hoo Ha will be Supergrass’ sixth album in 13 years, an album that has already housed three singles that bring the band’s total to the mid-20s. That’s impressive for any band, but what’s most impressive is how energetic, fresh and supercharged this band feels since Britpop had such a short shelf life. And now, oddly, the band members still just in their 30s, they are considered old men in comparison to their tourmates such as Arctic Monkeys or Coldplay. If only those two bands could make the guarantee that their music would be as good as Supergrass’ after as much time has elapsed.
Part of the charm of Supergrass can be attributed to the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously. One look at their history, including a video with Muppet technology, an early teen anthem and now the title of this particular album, will go a long way to prove their lack of humorless earnestness. Another part of their charm is due to their love of so many different kinds of music, namely the rougher side of British music, as opposed to their Beatlesque peers. Supergrass seem to be able to take on all genres with ease, as if they’re a house band that can take requests and adapt to any environment. Diamond Hoo Ha is no exception to the above two attributes, and it can be heard immediately in first single, “Diamond Hoo Ha Man.” The song is such a dead on pastiche of the White Stripes, I almost forgot this was a Supergrass album. Producer Nick Launay (Nick Cave and a CV a mile long) fleshed out this rocking effort with Mr. Cave himself giving his blessing on the humorous title.
Second single “Bad Blood” is like a combo of ELO and Iggy Pop as only Supergrass could bring it. And already, from the first two tracks, we are so ensconced in urban glamour and decay, there is no mistaking the effect that Supergrass wanted to produce. Third single “Rebel in You” lightens up the mood just a bit, but still chugs along with intense energy, though with less Iggy and more Bowie circa Young Americans or Scary Monsters. “When I Needed You” and “345” prove to be worthy album tracks, with one a 70’s style piano funk fest and the other a schizophrenic glam jam. “Ghost of a Friend” is sure to evoke a smile or two, with a bit of a Dylan impression in the middle of a modern pop anthem. But most will take notice of “Whiskey & Green Tea,” an inspired tale of excess in the style of T. Rex mashed up with Weezer.
The bottom line for the music of Supergrass is fun. No matter whether you think I Should Coco is better than In It for the Money (btw, it’s not), or if you were disappointed by their self-titled x-ray album or by the stylistically adventurous Road to Rouen, there’s something about Supergrass that is likeable by pretty much everyone. In an age when most great Britpop bands have disappeared, Supergrass has remained firmly rooted. They even still make great videos when no one makes videos anymore. If you were to ask me, and if you’re reading this, you sort of are, I would say to forget about Death and All His Friends and prick up your ears to a Diamond Hoo Ha.
The White Stripes- Icky Thump
The Boo Radleys- Wake Up!
Video: “Diamond Hoo Ha Man”