Supergrass – Diamond Hoo Ha (Astralwerks Records)

Supergrass burst on the Brit-pop scene in 1994 with a teen-punk energy that bands like Suede, Blur and Oasis all flirted with but could never convincingly pull off. Fast-forward through fourteen years of musical highs (1997’s masterful In It For The Money) and lows (1999’s self-titled snoozer), and you have the band, now in their thirties and expanded from a trio to a quartet, releasing their sixth album, oddly titled Diamond Hoo Ha. They’re still playing punk-edged Brit-pop but the sparkle is gone. The album’s first three songs – “Diamond Ho Ha Man”, “Bad Blood” and “Rebel In You” – are far and away the best, but they’re not that exciting: The sort-of title song “Diamond Hoo Ha Man” could have been on any of the last three White Stripes albums and “Rebel In You” sounds enough like Franz Ferdinand’s “Do You Want To” that Supergrass’ lawyers should be placed on 24-hour stand-by. There’s probably been pressure to increase sales, and the easiest way to do that is to cling to the latest trend (or one from 2003, apparently) but these songs, while not bad, are far from their best. Unfortunately the rest of the album consists of unmemorable rockers that rely way too much on stale keyboard sounds and the occasional putrid saxophone, which are no replacement for the roaring guitars they used to feature. OK fine, the music isn’t great…most bands hit a rut at some point in their career. However, that’s no excuse for visual abortion that is the album cover. The heavily airbrushed, blue-tinted photo of the band, with some members playing instruments, while others stare right at the camera (hey keyboards, I’m talking about you), is hideous. Take it as a warning: these may be the same guys you’ve known and loved, but Diamond Hoo Ha presents them in a less than favorable light.