1979, Music

Breakfast in America (1979) by Supertramp

I grew up listening to Oldies Radio when that meant music from the 1960s and, occasionally, the late ’50s. Especially as I got older, the station I used to listen to would make exceptions for some music from the 1970s, usually MOR and singer-songwriter stuff. Supertramp was one of the bands that made that cut. Then, when I graduated to Classic Rock Radio, when that meant the 1970s, Supertramp still got airtime. So I’ve been familiar with the hits from this record for a very long time.

At some point, I read they were prog. My step-father had one or two of their records so it’s hard for me to imagine not having ever listened to the ones he owned, as I got into prog rock. But, despite knowing at least four of these tracks, somehow their (supposed?) origins as a prog rock band messed with my expectations here. (Particularly their reputation among certain people as one of the more famous prog rock bands, as well as my own possibly unjustified belief that they made pop prog.) All of this is to say I don’t know what I was getting into. I thought this was going to be some super poppy prog rock.

It mostly isn’t. It’s mostly very mildly progressive or arty pop rock. If this band ever indulged in prog, it wasn’t recently, if the songs on this record are anything to go by. And that’s actually a huge relief, because I was expecting that I would get all angry while listening to this and, instead, I’m just disinterested.

These guys write very catchy songs, though the hits are unsurprisingly way catchier than most of the album tracks. The songs are occasionally a little unusual but, to my ears, it’s more a veneer of musical ambition (as embodied by the song-lengths) than it is actual ambition. The lyrics are fine I guess.

There is entirely too much electric piano on this record. I believe I once heard their sound described as “that electric piano sound” and it’s not far off. This arrangements are so reliant on the instrument that it marks it as much closer to pop than rock (it’s hard to rock without much distorted guitar in 1979) but also it dates the record as not to many people were this in love with the electric piano subsequently. I can imagine enjoying this more if there was just a little more variation in their keyboards (and, yes, more guitar).

But, that being said, I’m surprised as how not awful this is. I was really dreading listening to it and it’s all very competent. It might actually be worth listening to if you can get by the higher voiced singer and over-use of pianos. Who knew?


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