1997 was, in many ways, the hangover of Britpop; the bloom was off the rose, as they say, and the more interesting bands were looking elsewhere for inspiration already. Blur, of course, had “Beetlebum” and “Song 2” coming out, and Supergrass had “Richard III.” Like “Song 2” – the singles were contemporaneous – this is a song that throws away the cheeky-chappy persona for something heavier and purposefully less melodic, but what it lacks in tune it makes up for in force: This is a claustrophobic song that deserves to be played loud, so that the whole “I know you want to try to get away” overwhelms you the way it should, and you find yourself able to pick out the bouncy, McCartney-esque bassline, organ stabs and theramin amongst the aural soup. This is a song to get lost in, and find yourself exhausted by, by the time the fade-out finally arrives…
I am open to almost any and all answers of the question “Where did it all go wrong for Supergrass?” as long as they don’t include this perfect opener from their second track, which has it all – Harmonies, repetitive chimey guitar, tension-and-release, a horn section that makes you feel triumphant and a sudden cut at the end that makes you think that something went wrong with your CD player if you were me back in the day. For no immediately obvious reason, this song always makes me remember a particular day in Aberdeen as I was approaching the end of my bachelors’ degree and running out of both money and time, slowly wandering around town and wondering how everything could end up well (Spoiler: It did).
I’ve always wondered just how much of “Melanie Davis” comes from the cynical consensus that Britpop was all a bunch of Beatles retread and little else, considering the obvious shout-out to “With A Little Help From My Friends” in the chorus. I like the lift, I have to agree, especially because of the change in attitude it seems to signify between the two ages; when asked “Do you need anybody?” Ringo replies that he needs somebody to love, but Gaz is asked “Do you need someone?” and whines/sneers “I need anyone/I need everyone,” which feels more… I don’t know, needy? Desperate? Honest? At least one of the three, and that’s something that’s always appealed.
(Add that in with the organ, the harmonies and the “Ahh-ahh-ahhh” backing vocals, and this song is pretty much a winner for me as soon as we hit the chorus for the first time.)