For those who can digest more of this soup,
Out Spaced (Creation, 1998) is a collection of rarities.
Guerrilla (Flydaddy, 1999) is a superb, albeit involuntary, parody of
their own sound, so refined to sound artificial. Songs such as
Northern Lites and Do or Die
are perfect summaries of everything they have done so far.
Fire In My Heart is cosmic pop.
Mwng (Flydaddy, 2000),
sung in Welsh, was recorded live in studio. This "lo-fi" version of the band is quite effective in delivering the deranged epos of Dygioni and Sarn Helen, and Gruff Rhys has the time of his life singing them.
The double disc Rings Around The World (Epic, 2001), their greatest
avails itself of a sleek, lush production that confuses the
issue of what the music is all about.
It was released in Britain with great fanfare. Remove the hype, and all is
left is the usual dose of pop refrains and Pet Sounds-style arrangements
(notably the power riffs and angelic harmonies of Rings Around The World)
plus a few
diligent imitations of Radiohead
(the whispered chamber lied Alternative View From Vulcan Street,
the slow, hypnotic and sensual instrumental A Touch Sensitive).
The experiments are amateurish at best, like the way
Receptacle for the Respectable mutates multiple times,
from Mexican street fanfare to pummeling/growling death-metal,
ot the way the lengthy
turns into glitch music.
All in all, perhaps the album strikes a chord when
Juxtaposed With U merges
easy-listening soundtracks of the 1960s and orchestral disco of the 1970s,
one of its lightest moments.
Ditto for Run Christian Run, a sleepy hybrid of
Morricone-style Western-movie elegy and Eagles-style country shuffle.
The album's intentions are good, but it has too much fluff, including
to the yawn-inducing
lounge ballad It's Not The End of the World
and the orchestral ballad Presidential Suite.
It sounds like the album of musicians that try desperately to sound interesting.
In fact, it was one of their least interesting albums.
Phantom Power (XL, 2003) finds a better balance than its predecessor
between light, breezy Brit-pop and lush, ambitious arrangements.
For a band that spent its career to imitate Pet Sounds, it is no
small achievement to have finally produced an album that sounds like
the Beach Boys transported to the digital age.
The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan plays
here (all the string sections are arranged by him) and no wonder that so many songs evoke the Beach Boys
if not Simon & Garfunkel or
Crosby Stills & Nash,
from the six-minute soft vocal carousel of Piccolo Snare
to the psychedelic lullaby Cityscape Skybaby
to Venus and Serena.
But the most captivating numbers are probably the ones that violate the norm:
the anthemic Liberty Belle (with a refrain reminiscent of Bob Dylan's Like A Rollingstone),
the swinging Golden Retriever (with boogie guitar and gospel vocals),
the pounding rave-up of Out Of Control.
On the other hand the languid singalong Hello Sunshine,
the bossanova-rock of Valet Parking,
the reggae shuffle The Undefeated, and the lazy country-rock ballad
Sex War And Robots embody the congenital limitations of the Super Furry
Animals, but, luckily, here they are the exception and not the rule.
Enhanced with a couple of moody experiments
(notably the seven-minute ambient-techno closer Slow Life)
and a discrete use of dance beats and electronic sounds throughout,
this album fulfills whatever ambitions was hidden behind the mess of
Rings Around The World.
Phantom Phorce (Sony, 2004) is a remix album.
Songbook (XL, 2005) collects the singles.
The sci-fi concept
Love Kraft (Rough Trade, 2005), featuring string arrangements by Sean O'Hagan (of High Llamas) and a 100-unit Catalan choir, boasts the bold (for them) choral overture of Zoom and the
bold (for them) arrangements of Laser Beam.
But Walk You Home and Cabin Fever mix the same ingredients to
obtain something that is not all that different from lounge music.
Gruff Rhys debuted solo with the stripped-down
Yr Atal Genhedlaeth (2005), a collection of generic power-pop muzak sung in Welsh, followed by Candylion (2007), a more regular collection
of eerily-arranged psychedelic-pop songs in the old style of Super Furry Animals
(Candylion, reminiscent of Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears,
the ambient pop of Lonesome Words,
the 14-minute Bob Dylan-esque fresco Skylon).
In the meantime,
keyboardist Cian Ciaran launched Acid Casuals, that debuted with
and drummer Dafydd Ieuan formed the Peth with actor Rhys Ifans (an original
member of Super Funny Animals).
If Love Kraft had shown a modest inclination towards a more "progressive"
the Super Furry Animals returned to concise pop immediacy on Hey Venus (2007),
an album that lazingly surveys the standards of the catchy ditty (from
Merseybeat to bubblegum to punk-pop) and occasionally delivers a song that
may actually stick for more than one day
(Show Your Hand and Into The Night).
Stainless Style (2008), credited to Neon Neon, was a collaboration between Gruff Rhys and USA dj Boom Bip intended as a concept album about John DeLorean, a futuristic designer of cars, and crafted as a tribute to the music of the 1980s.
Dark Days/Light Years (Rough Trade, 2009) contains the
eight-minute exotic-psychedelic pastiche Cardfiff in the Sun
but is generally more ebullient
than usual, letting the rockers prevail over the ballads.
Hence the prog-rock fantasia Crazy Naked Girls, that mutates from
funk-soul a` la Prince to pop-metal a` la
Guns N' Roses,
the roaring pounding Inconvenience, that decays into an old-fashioned space-rock jam,
the cool boogie Mt,
The band is still all over the spectrum, from the
pop-soul easy-listening muzak White Socks Flip Flops,
to the polyrhythmic and dissonant The Very Best Of Neil Diamond.
The ten-minute Pric, that blends
Neu-esque motorik rhythm
and a ghostly cacophonous instrumental coda,
is as fanciful as the Beatles' Revolution.
The high-brow and pompous tone of the album can use the
lively march-like singalong Inaugural Trams, probably the one and only
The vocal harmonies a` la Beach Boys and CSN&Y are largely a memory of the past,
but it's not clear what asset has replaced them.
Gruff Rhys mocked the mellow pop music of the 1960s on
Hotel Shampoo (2011) and composed the amateurish soundtrack
Terror of Cosmic Loneliness (2012).
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