Still loved for its sumptuous, sunny FM vibes.
John Doran 2010-10-29
If you were to listen to music journalists (never a very sensible thing to do) you could be forgiven for thinking that Joy Division, Public Image Limited, Arthur Russell and Patrick Cowley provided the sound of 1979. While this is an admirable thought, in reality it was bands such as Supertramp, Wings, 10cc, ELO and, with a slightly harder edge, Queen – bands whose widescreen combinations of rock and pop with West End musical sensibilities were infiltrating every home in the nation.
And while it’s easy to presume that this sugary and bombastic sound – Queen notwithstanding – has fallen by the wayside, the figures, as always, speak for themselves. Breakfast in America, Supertramp’s sixth studio album, hardly underperformed in reaching number three in the UK and number one in the US on its release. But it has gone on to sell over 20 million copies since, meaning it obviously counts more than just Alan Partridge as a current fan.
Made by a band of Brits living in Hollywood, the album comprises a series of vignettes about ‘modern’ life in America. It is skilfully realised by its chief songwriters, pianist Rick Davies and guitarist Roger Hodgson, and is never too cynical or willing to bite the hand that feeds. Yet the record is still probing, and somehow unsatisfied with the Beverley Hills lifestyle that’s been granted them.
Breakfast in America is still loved for its sumptuous, sunny FM vibes; but there was nothing casual about its genesis given that it took eight months of painstaking work to assemble. But really the key element here is the unbeatable quality of the song writing and pretty much any of the ten tracks could have been hit singles. The McCartney-esque Logical Song fizzes and crackles with castanets and handclaps, while the title-track boasts the kind of subtle melancholia that informs ABBA’s more introverted work and an unexpected showing from a klezmer backing band. Gone was the previous inclination towards pseudo-philosophy that they’d showcased on concept albums such as Crime of the Century. Instead this was replaced with the unquestionable quality of Take the Long Way Home, Goodbye Stranger and Child of Vision.