Gaz Coombes: Turn the Car Around (Hot Fruit Recordings/Virgin Music)
Fittingly for a band whose signature anthem is a joyful celebration of youthful brio, the Supergrass catalogue has aged well. The Oxford trio’s reunion touring, pre- and post-pandemic, only confirmed how vibrant and vital their songs are, but there are no plans to turn their get-together into a longer term recording project, leaving frontman Gaz Coombes to pour his songwriting energies into his (underappreciated) solo albums.
Turn the Car Around is the fourth such outing and sticks to his strengths. Coombes is a classicist, a natural born writer of sophisticated hooks and a masterful arranger, clearly influenced by The Beatles, Bowie and Neil Young but never derivative. The quality of his songs sees him right – songs such as sonorous piano ballad Overnight Trains, with Coombes in moody crooner mode, capturing a sense of space and also of scale which recurs throughout the album.
The retro romance and glamour continues on Don’t Say It’s Over, as Coombes mines the same sultry seam as Arctic Monkeys’ recent releases, layering on acid guitar, melodramatic piano and baroque synth arpeggios in the style of swinging Sixties composers such as Roy Budd and David Axelrod.
This is one of a handful of tracks inspired by his family. He channels Lou Reed in the chorus of This Love to celebrate an enduring relationship “like Romeo and Juliet, except we both survive”, while he imagines a conversation with his autistic daughter on the soaring cosmic country of Not the Only Things.
Coombes’ style is strong, yet he never repeats himself, jumping nimbly from the lopsided glam funk of Feel Loop (Lizard Dream) to the shimmer and gloss of the title track, from Long Live the Strange’s stomping celebration of outsider music to the sighing melody of emotional closer Dance On.