Crime of the Century was Supertramp’s first real commercial breakthrough, hurling them right into the sphere of superstardom in the mid 70s. The album was received especially well in Canada, entering the charts for over two years, and selling over 1 million copies. Crime of the Century peaked at number four in the UK album chart in March 1975, and “Dreamer” reached number 13 on the singles chart in the same month.
The notable, progressive rock/pop, and art rock group Supertramp was formed as a wishful enterprise by a millionaire hard-core rock fan. After disappointment with a band titled The Joint, Stanley August (Sam) Miesegaes, the dutch millionaire who financed Supertramp, put his faith in the blues and jazz zealot Rick Davies, who played keyboard, and the psychedelia fan of Roger Hodgson, the vocalist.
If any band could capture all a teenager’s distressing angsts and whims in three minutes, with more eloquence than Jane Austen, it’s Supertramp. Even the most bigoted anti rock fanatics, those who set fire to records with smug grins, will probably unplug their ears to let the witty, intellectual lyrics of Crime of the Century dazzle them away. So beware, if the radio is even faintly playing this while you are at the queue at Waitrose, you will likely have an angry cashier yelling at you because you’ve become oblivious to the outside world. It’s that interesting, spectacular, and somehow even better.
From the first song, “School,” the rebellion stemming from alienation is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. For instance, the lyrics “They tell you not to hang around and learn what life’s about/And grow up just like them, won’t you let it work it out,” speak to the idea of a prejudice that children tend to automatically take on in their youth due to their exposure in everyday life. The track comes with a suppressed aura, and echoes the ideas of how schooling can reduce creative thinking, and ultimately lead to perpetual conformity.
Whenever Roger Hodgson’s voice is heard on this album, it feels forlorn and separated, almost like he is trapped in a small jail cell, far off in the distance. His vocals produce a unique sound that feels claustrophobic and boxed up, especially in the more slow tempo songs such as “Hide in your Shell,” “If everyone was listening,” and “Crime of the Century.” Along with the band’s accompaniment, there is a disconnect between the listener and the band; however, the lyrics are still relatable. This is because, although the lyrics seem very aggressive, the instrumentals and vocals are all seemingly passive. This adds to the originality of the group, and makes recreating the sound difficult. This album may be more appealing to teenagers as it is a rooted in teenage angst, and may be slightly juvenile to older folks (even though it was relevant to the 70s).
A bit more witty satire can be heard in the song “Asylum,” with the words “Don’t arrange to have me sent to no asylum/I’m just as sane as anyone/It’s just a game I play for fun – for fun.” It is a narrative of a presumed “insane” man being imprisoned in a mental asylum, hence the name “Asylum.”
The recurring theme of imprisonment appears to be the focal point in this album. For instance, in the songs “Hide in your Shell” and “School,” the imprisonment is emotional and thought based, but in “Asylum” it is physical. “Hide in your Shell” is an ode to the lonely, with words such as “Hide in your shell/Cause the world is out to bleed you for a ride.” This is suggesting a form of mental imprisonment within the idea of loneliness. In “School,” the imprisonment is evident in the subject, the conservative education’s objective to produce a person without room for non-traditional creativity.
As great as this album is, there definitely is a time and a place to listen to it. If you feel like turning on a quick tune before you start your homework, it would probably be best to steer clear of Crime of the Century. It’s like Oreos; you won’t just “take one.” Chances are that when this comes on you could very well venture off into your own world of electric piano chords and riffs, and block out the outside world. Then it’s 10:30 pm and you’ve forgotten about that English paper due tomorrow. But who knows, everyone is different. If sacrificing 40 minutes and 10 seconds to embark on a gripping adventure filled with angst, observations, and quite simply, really good music, then Crime of the Century is shouting your name. But, be careful, and listen at your own risk.pm and you’ve forgotten about that English paper due tomorrow.