With its fourth album, Life on Other Planets, Supergrass delivers its most unabashedly fun record yet, forgoing the artsy overtures of its recent past for flashy guitar riffs and cosmic organs. And while it's nothing new for the British quartet (now including Rob Coombes on keyboards) to turn to '70s rock for inspiration, here the band depends more than ever on glam rockers like Queen, David Bowie, and T. Rex. Mixing the lighthearted, rough-hewn sound of the group's early albums with the melodrama of 1999's self-titled LP, Supergrass achieves a balance that's thoughtful and well-crafted without being too weighty.
Like its forebears, Supergrass can seem skimpy on substance at first, but Life is far from being merely catchy fluff. The expertly rendered “Brecon Beacons” ambitiously unfolds a murder mystery over a ska beat, while the mix of bright chorus, brooding vocals, and languid acoustic guitars on “Evening of the Day” recalls Bowie songs like “Oh! You Pretty Things.”
The band also resurrects its goofy reputation — built via previous odes to sex, shepherd's pie, and getting thrown in the slammer — on the whirling “Grace,” where Coombes' sultry, irreverent moan offers lines like, “Well, we jumped all night on your trampoline/ When you kissed the sky, it made your sister scream/ You ate our chips and you drank our Coke/ Then you showed me Mars through your telescope.”
With musical elements that mimic a long line of disco-era rockers, this album isn't fraught with out-of-this-world inspiration. But Life on Other Planets succeeds at wrangling that trademark flamboyant British energy into ripe melodies that are musically complex, instrumentally agile, and downright sassy.