Britpop acts have a habit of releasing stellar debut albums, then fading into oblivion after a bombastic follow-up, so any band that lasts long enough to get a singles collection deserves applause for its relative longevity. But Supergrass should get more than just a pat on the back for its anthology Supergrass Is 10: The Best Of 94-04. For a decade, the UK power trio has documented its evolution from bratty post-adolescencemarked by exaggerated pop-punk power fantasies like "Caught By The Fuzz" and "Mansize Rooster"to its current status as a collective of middle-aged-leaning daydreamers. The band's collected best makes the case for youthful verve and musical maturation, and for musicians sticking together long enough to go through changes.
Along the way, Supergrass has dabbled in moody psychedelia and raging hard-rock, both inspired as much by the early '70s crunch of Sweet and T. Rex as The Buzzcocks or Oasis. Supergrass Is 10 delivers 21 tightly explosive songs too wiggy and pubby to make the U.S. charts, which is our loss: Supergrass gems like the propulsive, glammy "Pumping On Your Stereo" and "Alright" remain among the era's tastiest rock bubblegum.
Travis lies on the less flexible end of the Britpop spectrum. Since 1996, Travis has worked through variations on the same atmospheric mid-tempo guitar ballad, trying to transform into a more radio-friendly Radiohead, and missing the brass ring when the later-arriving (and superior) Coldplay grabbed it first. Still, there's something indispensably haunting and straightforwardly catchy about the songs on Travis' Singles collection. Singer/bandleader Fran Healy sings better than most of his peers, and his lyrics are witty and direct, full of the intense self-centeredness at which royal subjects seem to excel.
The best of Singles comes from the second and third of Travis' four albums, The Man Who and The Invisible Band. With songs like "Driftwood," "Turn," "Sing," and "Side," the band stole the best parts of modern Britpop (previously stolen from The Beatles, David Bowie, Genesis, and Simple Minds), describing the rain-softened soul of the UK, as it reverberates through the green-and-gray color scheme of the region's literal and emotional landscape.