PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am


Road to Rouen


Before the Kaiser Chiefs were even a glint in Ricky Wilson's dad's eye, there was Supergrass, three cheeky stoners from Oxford who occupied The Monkees seat of the mid-90s Britpop juggernaut. With their catchy guitar pop and witty Kinks-like lyrics they set themselves apart from the rest of the scene by having a sense of humour and great singalong tunes to boot.

Sadly, the world tired of their overtly happy-chappy rock as quickly as Britpop soured in the public's imagination and Supergrass seemed destined to peddle their never-grow-up lad rock at 90s nostalgia tours.

Then came Road to Rouen. With a title like that you'd be forgiven for expecting another set of irrepressibly joyful pub songs. But no, the hairy three-piece's fifth album is a corker, mainly because they seem to have at last decided to take things more seriously. They still trade in catchy tunes, but this time there's a maturity about them.

The playfulness is still there - the opening track is the Yank-baffling Tales of Endurance Parts 4, 5 and 6 - but these songs shimmer like their stutter pop of previous outings never did. Roxy is almost epic, coming in at more than six minutes - the time it would previously have taken Supergrass to whack out three songs, and sounds positively prog-rock compared with the likes of their classic Caught by the Fuzz.

It's an admirable comeback for a band that for so long had clung tenaciously to the lifebuoy. Now they're up and sailing again.