Can it really be nearly fifteen years since Supergrass hitched a ride to the Britpop party? With all their peers, save a depleted Blur and Oasis, now safely in the rear mirror, five top ten albums in the trunk and a new generation of admirers – most notably The Arctic Monkeys – urging them on, they could be forgiven for cruising nostalgically towards middle-age.
But beneath that easy-going exterior lurks a fearsome inner drive. When bassist Mick Quinn sleepwalked through a first floor window and sustained serious injuries last September, most bands would have taken it as an excuse for a year off. Instead, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey embarked on a club tour as White Stripes spoof The Diamond Hoo Haa Men, while Quinn made the kind of miraculous recovery normally reserved for David Banner.
Such strength of purpose reverberates through Diamond Hoo Ha. Perhaps it’s the thrill of recording at the legendary Hansa studios in Berlin (once home to David Bowie and Japan) which led them to the “Heroes”-esque ambience of “Rebel In You” or the swirling Krautrock rumble of “Rough Knuckles”. All this mesmeric swagger is, however, still matched by a rapier lyrical guile.
JJ Cale-esque lament “Ghost In You” sees Gaz bemoaning the loss of a friend to the party set, seething: “There’s always a circus in town/ Vultures, peacocks and hounds” while “Whisky & Green Tea” sees them encountering Chinese dragons, middle-aged schoolgirls and “being chased by William Burroughs” amidst runaway drums and squealing sax. Not quite “We keep our teeth nice and clean”, then.
More clues to the demons which forced Danny Goffey to “wander off” during sessions for 2005’s brooding Road To Rouen appear on “When I Needed You” .“In the middle of a shady bar/Broken bottles flying through the air/That’s when I needed you” sighs Gaz, music as ever, a salve for their disrupted friendship.
Heavy stuff. But apply megawatt tunes and career-best performances and you’ve got an album to top even 2002’s criminally neglected Life On Other Planets. Twenty-four carat stuff, guaranteed.
UNCUT Q&A WITH GAZ COOMBES
UNCUT: Thisis quite a departure from 2005’s Road To Rouen…
GAZ COOMBES: “We’ve all been through the mill in the last couple of years. My mum died, and Mick and Danny both had a few personal issues going on. But we started doing demo’s in my basement and all the songs came out sounding really mental, noisy and brilliant. Playing together in a room helped to get us all close again.
Did recording at Hansa inspire you?
All the songs were written before we went, but Berlin definitely inspired the feel of the album. We went to some crazy bars, and had a ball. Hence the title-the whole experience was magical -a diamond hoo haa!
Does it feel odd to be elder statesmen at thirty?
Well, we are getting older, we have to face facts. But most sportsmen reach their best during their late twenties and early thirties, so that’s how I see it. We’re at our peak!
INTERVIEW: PAUL MOODY