Review Summary: Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70's progressive music and is Supertramp's best work.
Being a teenager can be a hard and sometimes confusing time. A few years before my teen years began, my parents were involved in a somewhat lengthly and bitter divorce. On the day that my father moved out he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have received even to this day, his record collection. At the time I had no idea what a monumental gift this was, but something changed when I became a teenager. One day when I was about fourteen or so I stumbled across my Dad's record player in a box in the garage. I dusted it off, plugged it in, and then began my search through my dad's old records. The first things that grabbed my attention were albums that I had known all my life by the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who, but as I went through the boxes I began to see albums for bands I knew very little about or not at all. At the bottom of one of the boxes was Supertramp's Crime of the Century. I remember just staring at it for a few minutes. The depiction of a man trapped behind prison bars instantly struck a chord. After a few more minutes of taking it all in, I put the album on. The album remained on that turntable for a good two weeks before I put anything else on. Supertramp had managed to capture the confusion, rebellion, and angst of being a teenager better than any of the other albums that I began to obsess over. It wasn't like Roger Waters' constant blaming of everyone but himself for his unhappiness like in Pink Floyd's The Wall nor was it the unabashed rage and animalistic spirit championed in Alice Cooper songs like Eighteen
or Schools Out
, Crime of the Century had a universal element to it that made it easy to relate to and more personal than the other albums of the like.
“Do as they tell you to/ Don't want the devil to/ Come and pull out your eyes”
Lyrically, all of the songs on Crime of the Century are built off of the anger and alienation that come from being a confused, angsty young man. The opening track, School
, is a diatribe on exactly that. The next track, Bloody Well Right
, continues this theme where Roger Hodgson blast “So you think your schooling's phoney, I guess it's hard not to agree” as he sets the opening tone of the song. Together the two tracks come off with an anti-conformity vibe that is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall. The track, Rudy
, is an attempt to add a personal side to that definitive James Dean style bad-boy with its character study of the song's namesake. Not everything is as bleak and anger driven as these songs though. The album's main single, Dreamer
, comes across as stressing that classical ethos where even though it may be impossible for your dreams to ever come true, its the fact that you try and never give up and keep that optimistic spirit that really matters.
Musically, on Crime of the Century Supertramp play 70's radio-pop with strong progressive tendencies. Neither side of Supertramp is superior over the other and they seem to play off of each other. Whenever the band lay heavy on their prog-chops they are quick to revert to their more sensible pop side. This keeps the music interesting and fresh since there are many shifts in the music stylistically and in time signatures. The opener and closer of the album, School
and Crime of the Century
respectively, are the most progressive tracks. School begins with a lonesome harmonica that reinforces the image of being trapped behind bars before spacey chords and driving bass power the verse. Then the band really begins to show their chops with an amazing piano solo. Before Supertramp can go balls to the wall prog the 2nd track begins with its heavy blues influence shining through. Crime of the Century
is rather similar to Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd where at first listen the track seems rather simplistic in its make up, but slowly begins to unveil itself after repeated listens. It begins as just a simple piano ballad but soon shows its teeth with a ripping guitar solo as it builds to its crescendo with strings and saxophone overlapping piano and pounding drums.
As strong as this album is, it does have one downside: you begin to outgrow it. When I was 14 I listened to Crime of the Century constantly, now it only gets a few plays a month. When you are a teenager this album seems like a classic performance rooted in teen angst, but as you get older there becomes a disconnect. Since the lyrics are so rooted in the teenage experience it can seem a bit juvenile at times. Despite this sometime juvenile approach, Crime of the Century is one of the better albums to be fished out of the sea that is 70's progressive music and is Supertramp's best work.