‘Breakfast In America’ at 40

Carlo Thomas gives his modern assessment of Supertramp’s overblown dad rock classic.

The late Seventies was an exciting time for rock. Too-cool-for-school bands like Joy Division, Devo and The Clash were releasing landmark albums. Yet hovering above were over-the-top commercial rock juggernauts releasing over-the-top albums. Exhibit A: Breakfast In America. Released 40 years ago today, Supertramp’s sixth LP was a runaway success, selling millions and topping the Billboard charts for six weeks. The album is filled with the hallmarks of the moment’s mainstream rock. The Vaudeville-esque title track feels like ‘Sgt. Pepper’ filtered through a decade of de-politicization and high-production trendiness (think ‘Aja’ and ‘Hotel California’). More unsettling is how “Just Another Nervous Wreck” feels like the precursor to the hair metal ballads that would dominate the coming decade.

Nevertheless, Breakfast In America is filled with many exceptional songs. Supertramp knows when to crack a joke; theatrical opener “Gone Hollywood” pokes fun at the idea of trying to “make it.” And they know when to get real; “The Logical Song” is about the disillusionment that comes with adulthood. The album’s first half is rounded out with the classic cuts “Goodbye Stranger” and “Oh Darling,” which exemplify the group’s knack for using everything a late-Seventies studio could offer. These songs are simply a joy.

The latter half is more forgettable, but not without its moments. “Take The Long Way Home” addresses the post-touring fatigue, longing and hopelessness of a has-been rockstar. It’s a surprisingly heavy song that cracked the US Top 10. Closer “Child of Vision” brings the record full-circle, replacing the opener’s soaring sax with an enjoyable, unnecessarily long keyboard solo that sums up the record’s ethos. Breakfast In America is an album of its time – and a good one at that. Despite its flaws, it does so many things right, and it’s a lot fun to listen to. And who can’t help but love that cover?

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