Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Breakfast in America" by Supertramp (1979)

All these years late, it's nothing more than 'ho-hum' or even 'blah', but at one time Supertramp were kind of a polarising, love-'em-or-hate-'em kind of thing. They were revolutionary, or they were fatuous and overblown, depending on who you ask.

To me, all these years later: they're often twee, frequently disposable but sometimes have a lovely way with a falsetto vocal and a pretty little melody, floating kilometres above the song itself, in an atmospheric but somehow amorphous way. And, oh yeah, they did this.

Breakfast in America, the album, was super-huge in 1979, when prog bands were supposed to be on the run from punk bands but continued, in reality, to fill the stadiums and make the money punks could only dream of. It had four singles, one of which, “The Logical Song”, is frequently derided as terrible, but I happen to like.

It turns out that, according to Wikipedia, tensions between the two main people in the band started to heat up during this album. Rick Davies, it seems, didn't like the title song and didn't want it on the album. Roger Hodgson, his co-writer, seemed to like it enough to keep it on the album and name the album after it.

Yay Rick Davies, boo Roger Hodgson. One of those cases where skilled musicians completely forget about taste in an urge to make something 'whimsical' (hello, Paul McCartney), this song has a rum-pum-pum feel to it like some kind of, I don't know, polka or something. It makes 'ba da da da' into a vocal melody, and it presents us with lyrics about the singer's girlfriend, and about kippers.

If all this gibberish was a 'novelty song', I'd probably have to leave it alone. But the fact is that this lapse in judgement is still quite popular on classic rock stations, which sometimes exhibit a seeming lack of taste that stuns me.

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