As the exuberant frontman for the boundlessly imaginative Brit-pop group Supergrass, Gaz Coombes at one point seemed to be an eternal teenager -- a man destined to never lose his baby fat and never slow down.
But time has a way of aging even the irrepressibly youthful, and by their second decade Supergrass had started to expand sonically and, by the time he released his solo debut, Here Come the Bombs, in 2012, just two years after the disbandment of Supergrass, Coombes had eased into the role of something of a Brit-pop elder statesman: a pop songwriter who was ready to explore new territory without swearing off his allegiance to melody.
Melody always was Coombes' specialty, even when he was the lead singer of the Jennifers at the age of 16. He and fellow Wheatley Park School classmate Danny Goffey formed the Jennifers when they were teens, and the Oxford-based quartet got far enough to land a contract with Nude, the label best known for signing Suede. The Jennifers fell apart after releasing the "Just Got Back Today" single in 1993, but Coombes and drummer Goffey formed Supergrass with bassist Mick Quinn later that year. Supergrass' rise was quick, with their debut single, "Caught by the Fuzz," selling out its first pressing in 1994 and receiving praise from John Peel, NME, and Melody Maker. Their debut, I Should Coco, arrived in the summer of 1995, right in the thick of Brit-pop mania, and it was one of the biggest records of the year, thanks in part to its effervescent hit "Alright." With their second album, 1997's In It for the Money, Supergrass' fame spread outside of England, but like so many of their British peers, they never managed to crack the U.S. market, despite support from such American fans as Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam.
Supergrass released an eponymous album in 1999 and Life on Other Planets in 2002 -- the latter arriving the same year that Gaz's brother Rob Coombes officially joined the band as their keyboardist, but their commercial fortunes began to slide somewhat. The contemplative 2005 record Road to Rouen was followed by the glitzy Diamond Hoo Ha in 2008 and then the group fractured, the band attempting to record a seventh album provisionally titled Released the Drones in 2009 but ultimately abandoning the sessions.
In the aftermath of the band's split, Coombes and Goffey bashed out cover versions in the 2010 one-off the Hotrats, and Coombes got down to business for his solo career, recording Here Come the Bombs in his home studio. The album appeared in early summer 2012, greeted by generally positive reviews. His second self-produced album, Matador, appeared in January 2015. Coombes played the majority of the instruments on Matador, assisted on occasion by his brother Charly and Ride drummer Loz Colbert. Matador debuted at 18 on the U.K. charts and wound up earning a nomination for the Mercury Prize. Coombes returned in May 2018 with World's Strongest Man.
In September 2019, a decade after they broke up, Supergrass reunited for a performance at the annual Glastonbury Pilton Party. In December, Coombes issued his Sheldonian Live EP, which featured four songs he had performed earlier in the year at a charity concert at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. Shortly after the Supergrass reunion, the career-spanning box set The Strange Ones: 1994-2008 was released in January 2020. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi