Album #37: “Breakfast in America” — Supertramp (1979)
For your consideration: the greatest album cover of all time. OK, maybe not the greatest, but certainly one of the best designed: Clever, playful, and absolutely full of promise. That the record in its sleeve turns out to be about dissolution, disillusion and wandering makes it, like American cinema in ’70s, a prime example of discontent wrapped up in crunchy pop goodness.
“Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker wasn’t afraid to declare his love for the admittedly un-hip Supertramp during this week’s interview, and neither is Jim. Jim celebrates the British band’s signature mix of prog and pop during this week’s DIJ. He says “Take the Long Way Home” from 1979’s Breakfast in America is characteristic of the band’s simultaneously sunny and threatening take on orchestral pop.
Given that I was a teen at the time, with questionable and steadfastly-Top-40-taste in music, I was clearly oblivious to the fact that rock critics hated Supertramp — hell, I was oblivious to the fact that rock critics even existed. It’s a pity Jim DeRogatis picked that particular song off of “Breakfast in America” however; like “Stairway to Heaven” on Led Zep IV, “Take the Long Way Home” — along with its over-played companion “The Logical Song” — long ago reached its saturation point from heavy rotation. If you grew up during that time, you’ve heard them both enough to last a lifetime.
Ignore the hits: the rest of the album is just as worthy of being played into the ground, particularly the epic opening and closing numbers (“Gone Hollywood” and “Child of Vision” respectively.) “Child of Vision” encompasses the dueling duet of the album’s main characters (brothers? friends? rival bandmates?) who trade arguments with each other through the lyrics of each song as their relationship slowly unravels. (Which is what also happened in real life; powerful creative differences between the group’s two songwriters eventually caused the band to shatter a few years later.)
It may have been because “Breakfast in America” was immensely popular around the time I got my driver’s license — or maybe because so many of the songs are about leaving and arriving — but I still maintain it is one of the best albums ever to take on roadtrip. Try it next time you travel cross-country and you’ll see.