Road to Rouen (Capitol)

Once an irresistibly goofy Britpop trio with ungainly muttonchop sideburns, Supergrass has reached a point of maturity where it finally seems more interested in studying the menu than in making goo-goo eyes at the waitress. On their fifth full-length, Oxford's retro-groovers have outgrown monosyllabic teen anthems to embrace the emotional complexities of middle age: disappointment, anger, and cool resolve.

Prog-baiting opener "Tales of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)" eases from spare acoustic ballad into a full-blown symphony of swirling organs and brass-accented pageantry, complete with all the king's horses and men. Equally evocative, "St. Petersburg," the album's unlikely loungecore single, employs a string quartet straight out of a James Bond soundtrack. The heart of the disc, "Roxy," pays tribute to frontman Gaz Coombe's late mother (along with Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles), signifying a welcome change in direction for a band that's not only older and wiser, but a hell of a lot more compelling because of it.

More by John LaBriola


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