Gaz Coombes: Turn the Car Around – his creative well runs deep

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As it approaches three decades since the Britpop wars, the era’s stars are riding high again. Liam Gallagher returned to the site of his Knebworth pinnacle last summer, and both Blur and Pulp will do the hits at huge outdoor shows later this year.

But not everyone is playing by the rules. Among Britain’s other Nineties heroes, Radiohead are showing no signs of getting back together, Noel Gallagher still resists a bumper Oasis payday and Suede have put the focus firmly on their excellent ninth album instead of their early work.

Meanwhile, Supergrass are having things both ways. The Oxford band reformed in 2020 after 10 years away and played nostalgic festival dates last summer, but at the same time, their frontman Gaz Coombes was writing music for this fourth solo album.

One listen and it’s obvious why he isn’t that bothered by singing about keeping his teeth nice and clean for the billionth time. He’s been getting better and better as a solo artist – his second album, Matador, earned a Mercury nomination, while chart placings have been getting higher – and here he’s hit a real peak.

He holds a guitar on the album cover but the first sounds are stately piano chords. There’s a rich, crooned, Scott Walker feel to Overnight Trains. Keys dominate again on the stunning standout Don’t Say It’s Over: organic piano moving slowly beneath an urgent synthesizer line. Having recorded his previous albums largely on his own, this time he worked in a new, bigger studio next to his home and brought in his live band. Accordingly the overall sound is gloriously expansive, dense with clever touches.

He gets weirder on Feel Loop (Lizard Dream), which lumbers along on a one note bassline and finds him duetting with sudden screeches of electric guitar. The sensitive flipside is Not the Only Things, written for his daughter, a midnight folk song which opens out into a heavenly chorus.

Scan the YouTube comments beneath any Supergrass video and the word that keeps popping up is “underrated”. Maybe they never quite made the A-list, but their songs are largely more interesting than their biggest hits and for the most part, they’ve barely dated. Generating a fuzzy feeling for your youth is only one thing Coombes is capable of at this point. As the music here proves, his creative well runs very deep indeed.

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