Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Anthologyology: Supertramp

The Tanuki liked Supertramp when he was a kid. He was of that era: Supertramp got played on the FM rock stations (this was in the very early '80s, when there were only rock and top-40 stations - the "rock" stations became "hard rock" sometime around 1983 and stopped playing things like Supertramp), and the Tanuki heard them, and liked them. He didn't know any better.

Paris was the album I had. I still think it's the best way to hear Supertramp: the live energy, and the unavailability of too many electronics on stage, delivers the band of just enough of their tweeness to reveal the strength of their songs (and dig that cover: how many orthodontist's offices had paintings that looked just like that in the '80s?). Paris was also the only album of theirs I had. Much later, in my first bout of nostalgia for the music of my youth, I picked up a greatest-hits disc. But it was woefully incomplete. I knew what I needed to make the perfect Supertramp anthology. But by that time I didn't care enough to complete the acquisition.

I only just did. For the record, that means I picked up Paris and also "...famous last words..." This last one because their anthologies never include "Crazy" and Waiting So Long," which are worth having. Throw those three albums together and the Tanuki finally has all the Supertramp he really needs.

And now the question he asks himself is: does he really need any Supertramp at all? At this point in his musical education he can plainly hear all the ways in which the 'tramps are derivative of earlier, better artists, artists the Tanuki now loves but which he didn't discover until later. Viz: if you imagine a really accessible version of '70s Yes, add to that the Kinks at their early-'70s gayest and most melancholy, and cut this with liberal doses of Elton John, you get Supertramp. In the ensuing years the Tanuki has developed an undying fascination with Yes, a rapt love for the Kinks in all their permutations, and a healthy appreciation for Reg. So what use does he have for Supertramp?

None, maybe. I'm not finding myself enthralled by Paris the way I was when I was thirteen. That said, I have to admit that, derivative or not, Davies and Hodgson had the goods. "Give A Little Bit" is a bona fide classic, but they had another dozen or so songs just as good. Solid songs, interestingly arranged and well performed, consistently hitting that '70s sweet spot of post-Beatles pop/rock, reasonably sophisticated and experimental, before AOR channeled all such impulses into strict subgenre conventions.

For what it's worth, here's what the Tanuki came up with as an anthology. An inveterate anthologizer, is the Tanuki. Disc One: School (live); Crazy; Ain't Nobody But Me (live); The Logical Song; Bloody Well Right; Dreamer; You Started Laughing (live); Hide In Your Shell; From Now On (live); It's Raining Again; Goodbye Stranger. Disc Two: Take The Long Way Home; Give A Little Bit; Rudy; A Soapbox Opera (live); Asylum (live); Breakfast In America; Waiting So Long; Fool's Overture (live); Two Of Us (live); Crime Of The Century (live).

I am such a geek.

No comments: