The Hot Rats - The Garage, London
Cover albums. For every classic like Bowie's Pin Ups or Nouvelle Vague's self-titled debut there's a clunker to match, with Thank You from Duran Duran and Bryan Ferry's Dylanesque perfect examples of why sometimes you should just leave the original alone. Brit poppers Supergrass are the latest act to throw their hat in the cover version ring.
Fresh from performing as duo (Diamond Hoo Ha Men) due to Supergrass's bass player Mick Quinn recovering from a sleepwalking related back injury, singer Gaz Coombes and drummer Danny Goffey have now moved on to form 'Grass spin off The Hot Rats, releasing an album of some of their favourite songs, entitled Turn Ons.
Luckily the album contains a titanic team of choice covers, with the Rats delving into rock, punk and new wave's archives, dusting down a dozen decent songs and putting the Supergrass spin on them, with the tracks generally sounding similar to the originals but a bit more frantic. There are a couple of curve balls thrown in the mix though, with songs not sounding as you'd imagine they would delivered by the pair.
I first became aware of the project towards the end of last year, after hearing their cover of the Gang Of Four classic “Damaged Goods” on BBC 6 Music. I loved the version so was eager to hear what else the lads had up their sleeves. In all honesty I hadn't given Supergrass much thought in at least a decade! I enjoyed their first two albums, especially early single “Mansize Rooster”, devouring it on the song's release and having a bit of an affair with “Caught By The Fuzz” around the same time too but my passion for the trio waned over the years that followed so I was surprised to find myself eagerly awaiting Turn Ons release.
The duo had scheduled a live appearance at London's Garage to promote the album so I felt a trip to see the boys was long overdue.
The venue was absolutely freezing so I was hoping the lads would live up to their name and bring a heater on stage with them. I kept my cold fingers crossed throughout the band's intro tape - a mock airline announcement, with the "Captain" letting us know that they were just running though final checks so everything could run smoothly, but it wasn't to be, with Gaz and Danny unveiling a pair of female mannequins draped with lights to keep them company throughout the set instead! I expecting the duo to flesh out their sound with a few extra band members so was surprised to see the guys taking to the stage alone, with Danny's drum kit pushed to the front so he was visible to all. The Hot Rats additional accompaniment was delivered in the form of backing tracks, triggered by one of the pair -or the torch wielding man hiding in the corner tuning guitars!
The Hot Rats live set opened with their take on Velvet Underground's "I Can't Stand It", with "Damaged goods" following. The Garage show seemed to be one of the duo's first as The Hot Rats, with Gaz telling the audience that they never actually thought they'd be playing the album's songs to anybody.
The tracks from Turn Ons worked well in the live environment, with their slightly mellower version of the Beastie Boys "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" going down well with the responsive audience, alongside set highlight Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug", a track I felt worked even better live though I sadly missed the original's big drum roll!
There was a nice bit of banter going on between the boys throughout the set, adding to the evening's entertainment, with Danny's prison uniform, Japanese bars with small doors and T4's Steve Jones all meriting a mention! The Channel 4 presenter's name appeared due to Danny pretending to confuse him with the Sex Pistols guitarist of the same name while Gaz was introducing their take on the band's "EMI", saying that he had performed it with the Pistol's player - "Master of the chug"! I don't think Gaz Coombes gets the praise he deserves as a guitarist as he isn't bad at chugging too and manages to churn out some excellent riffs in the process!
The set drew to a close with a breakneck version of Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up". By this stage there were numerous people dancing down the front so an encore was fairly inevitable. The pair despatched their take on The Beatles "Drive my Car" then welcomed band member Mick Quinn to the Rats fold, with the trio producing scorching versions of Supergrass stunna's "Caught By the Fuzz" and "Lenny", with the evening ending in band hugs and an extremely happy Gaz thanking the audience.