Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Supertramp Crime Of The Century (1974)

albcrimeofthecenturyFrom starling.rinet.ru

Sheez, if every following Supertramp album is going to have the same rating (third time in a row already!), they’ll have to earn the title of the most consistently “pleasant mediocre” band in the world. Heck, they probably were the most pleasant mediocre band in the world, so who cares?

Anyway, after a couple years of decline and a radical change of band lineup (which now featured a near-full brass section and a new drummer), Supertramp emerged on the British art-rock scene again, with a record that hearkened back to the debut, but with a few significant changes in the sound. Apart from ‘Dreamer’, all of the songs are consistently ‘artsy’, with no straightforward rockers or rootsy inclinations at all; on the other hand, the running times for most of the songs lie somewhere within the five-six minutes range, so at least the band stays away from massive overblown epics. Any special sound characteristics? That’s the most intricate moment: it’s very hard to characterize Crime, as there are too many subtle variations on the basic style to sum it up in one sentence. Roughly speaking, you might envisage it as a continuation of the style developed on Supertramp (i.e. the jazz-folksy vibe a la Traffic), with a bit more pomposity and ambitious seriousness thrown in for good measure. Plus, don’t forget that Supertramp were always making their music more accessible for the general public – most of these songs could have served as decent pop numbers in another age. Even so, I can’t really accuse the album of inadequacy: this might be a pop record disguising itself as an ambitious progressive symphony, but there’s enough humbleness and enough taste and modest scarcity in the arrangements not to make you puke.

Of course, it’s another question if somebody actually needs this album. Because none of the songs, not even the best ones, have any kind of immediate hooks or unique moods, and when, after a lot of listens, these hooks and moods finally appear, the reaction is, like, ‘That’s it?’ Perhaps the best thing about the album is the ominous harmonica solo that opens the lead-in number, ‘School’, after which it just gets all neat and tricky, with cutesy little guitars popping in and out, Hodgson’s ‘miserable’ vocals once again reinstating the feeling of loneliness and being outcast, and a pretty piano-based ‘dance’ mid-section. Very nice mood music. In contrast, ‘Bloody Well Right’ is a bit more gruff – the lengthy introduction has a great gimmick in the short period of wah-wah riffage, while the main part has Rick Davies borrow on music hall legacy once again. Very funny throwaway piece.

‘Hide In Your Shell’, meanwhile, is far darker and even more ‘miserable’ than ‘School’, in parts, a six-minute mini-epic that has its nice moments, but really lacks solid riffs or gorgeous vocal hooks to help it get along. I mean, that ‘if I can help you if I can help you…’ section is pretty catchy, but not in a McCartneyesque kind of way. In that respect, I really prefer the pathetic soul groove of ‘Asylum’, where Rick Davies makes his finest performance on the album. I don’t even want to know what the heck he’s singing about, but he’s singing well, and you gotta admit, just to hear him groan ‘please don’t arrange to have me sent to no asylum, I’m just as sane as anyone’ is extremely pleasant. A hard-to-take song it is, though, quite unlike ‘Dreamer’, the most poppy number on the album, with Hodgson assuming a particularly ‘kiddish’ vocal tone that undoubtedly made many a rock lover vomit on the spot. Not me, though – I can take even that kind of bubblegum.

Then there’s ‘Rudy’, which is very similar to ‘Bloody Well Right’, and there’s ‘If Everyone Was Listening’, which is very similar to ‘Rudy’ and also very similar to some song off The Lamb Lies Down I can’t remember the title of right now, and then there’s the title track which is slow and grim and over-orchestrated and multi-layered and actually quite impressive because all the layers in the lengthy coda are underpinned by a wonderful piano riff. And then there’s the realisation that the album’s over, and then there’s that ‘That’s it?’ thingie I already mentioned. Because, to be frank, there’s just nothing that special – all the time, you’re kinda waiting that the band is gonna take off NOW, and they actually never take off.

But don’t get me wrong: this is a good album, the kind of album that may become one of your personal favourites on repeated listenings. You know the best thing about good albums? Any good album (if only it is good, and not bad) may become a great album on repeated listenings! That’s where Supertramp fans come from! Thank God I have to go listen to other records now – with a couple dozen more listens, I’ll become a Supertramp fan!

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March 18, 2013 - Posted by | Supertramp Crime Of The Century |

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