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Life On Other Planets

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Album Review

Supergrass makes music so effervescent and so effortlessly joyous that it's easy to take them and their skills for granted. Surely that was the case around the release of their third album, 1999's eponymous effort, which in its labored fun and weary ballads illustrated just how much hard work it was to craft records as brilliant as I Should Coco and In It for the Money. It suggested the group might have burned too bright and flamed out, but, happily, 2002's Life on Other Planets is a smashing return to form, an album giddy with the sheer pleasure of making music. What makes this all the more impressive is that this is the record that Supergrass attempted to be — a perfect balance of the sensibility and humor of I Should Coco with the musicality and casual virtuosity of In It for the Money. Where that album felt labored and a little weary, Life on Other Planets is teeming with life. The tempos are sprightly, the hooks tumble out of the speakers, the band mixes up styles and eras, and they never, ever forget the jokes (Gaz's fleeting Elvis impression on "Seen the Light," an allusion to Spinal Tap's "All the Way Home," or the chorus of "Evening of the Day"). Sure, it's possible to spot the influence all the way through the album — most clearly T. Rex on "Seen the Light" and "Brecon Beacons," where Gaz's warble is uncannily like Marc Bolan's — but it never sounds exactly like their inspirations — it all sounds like Supergrass. And Supergrass hasn't offered such pure, unabashed pop pleasure since their debut; there hasn't been an album that's this much fun in a long time. Since they've been away for a while and have never broken in the States, Supergrass has been curiously overlooked, even though they're better than 99 percent of the power pop and punk-pop bands out there (plus, their everything-old-is-new-again aesthetic can be heard in such albums as the Strokes' Is This It?). But, as this glorious record proves, there are few bands around these days who are as flat-out enjoyable as this trio. The world is a better place for having Supergrass in it.

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Biography

Formed: 1993 in Oxford, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Like many other British bands of the '90s, Supergrass' musical roots lie in the infectiously catchy punk-pop of the Buzzcocks and the Jam, as well as the post-punk pop of Madness and the traditional Brit-pop of the Kinks and Small Faces. Perhaps because of its age -- two of the trio were still in their teens when they recorded their debut single -- the band also brings in elements of decidedly unhip groups like Elton John, as well as classic rockers like David Bowie, the Beatles, and the Rolling...
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