Even as many of its once-hyped fellow U.K. bands are tossed aside as yesterday’s news, Oxford’s wonderful pop-punk trio Supergrass continues to produce challenging yet easy-to-digest nuggets that reflect the best of classic British rock while maintaining the band’s own unique slanted look at modern life.
At the very full Viper Room on Saturday — the first of three local club stops as part of a 10-city U.S. showcase tour to promote Supergrass’ recently released and self-named third album — the band effectively recaptured the youthful excitement on display when it first broke radar in 1995. At the same time, the new songs played at the Viper revealed a still-ripening combo whose finest work may be yet to come.
Unpretentious group, which at its best recalls elements of the Kinks, Buzzcocks and the Who, may not yet enjoy the same level of success here in the States as it does at home, where platinum-level CD sales are its norm, but a long line of ticketless hopefuls nonetheless formed along the club’s Sunset Boulevard sidewalk — testament to the band’s considerable live reputation.
Sixteen-song perf mixed cuts from the band’s excellent 1995 entry “I Should Coco,” the more experimental 1997 follow-up “In It for the Money” (both on Capitol Records) and last year’s “Supergrass” (Island/Def Jam), a bold and progressive example of musical risk-taking that oozes with confidence.
Best of the new bunch at the Viper include “Jesus Came From Outer Space” and the breezy anthem “Pumping on Your Stereo,” on which mutton-chopped vocalist-guitarist Gaz Coombes appeared instead to be singing “humping.” (Coombes’ brother Robert played tasteful keyboards on many of the newer songs.)
Old favorites, of course, got the gig’s best reception, highlighted by a killer new version of the debut album’s “Strange Ones” and the buoyant gem “Sun Hits the Sky” from the second album. The uplifting 1995 cut “Late in the Day,” suggestive of “Sgt. Pepper”-era Beatles, also benefited from cool new arrangement tweaks. Band’s first single, 1994’s spastic “Caught by the Fuzz,” capped the 70-minute perf in fine encore fashion.