Parlophone - 2005 - 35 minutes
Flick through any music magazine from 1995's 'Summer of Britpop' and you'll be amazed at how many bands fell into either obscurity or mediocrity - or never got as far as either. Supergrass may have unwittingly given that self-congratulating movement its best and most enduring single with 'Alright', but as musicians they were always too accomplished to be lumped in with the rest. And it's their talent as players that defines 'Road to Rouen', an album that - as current depths-of-winter single 'St Petersburg' suggests - doesn't offer much in the way of happy choruses but contains songs that rank among the band's best.
From the start of epic, 1970s-sounding opener 'Tales of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6)', where Gaz Coomes sighs about "making sense of what I've heard, what is on my mind", an air of melancholy hangs over nearly all of the songs here. But the glumness and soul-searching is tempered with determination and the whole down-but-not-out mood suits Coomes & Co - it never seems contrived and the doldrums on the beautiful 'Low C' and tender closer 'Fin' become more affecting with each listen.
The problem with 'Road to Rouen', and it's a rarity these days, is that it's too short. Take out jokey midway point 'Coffee in the Pot' and you're left with eight songs and under 34 minutes. Given the form Supergrass are in here, it seems unlikely they ran out of things to say, so why not two more tracks to make up the all-important 10? Like Beck's 'Sea Change', 'Road to Rouen' could be the album that even non-fans will savour, but unlike that record, the fact that it feels incomplete means it can never make the jump from good to classic.
The cover art features a high-speed shot of traffic moving under a bridge. 10 years on, it seems to say a lot about Supergrass' career - and wherever this road takes them you should stick around for the ride.
Tracklisting: Tales of Endurance (Parts 4, 5 & 6) - St Petersburg - Sad Girl - Roxy - Coffee in the Pot - Road to Rouen - Kick in the Teeth - Low C - Fin