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Sunday August 21, 2005
The Observer

Super Furry Animals
Love Kraft

When you unwrap any new Super Furry Animals album or, indeed, download it, you never quite know which band is going to turn up. Will it be the grandiose pop engineers of Rings Around the World, their 2001 landmark? Will it be the soulful, Welsh-language obfuscators of Mwng, Rings's predecessor, and a stealth hit? The paranoid polemicists of their last blast, Phantom Power? Some men in blue bear suits playing techno?

This uncertainty is one of the immense pleasures of Furry fandom. It's also one of their drawbacks, at least from the point of view of a major label's accountants. Already difficult to categorise - their heady music incorporates electronic experimentation, vintage psychedelia, acoustic balladry and mid-Seventies AM rock, while their live shows have typically ended in acid rave meltdowns - the Furries change emotional hues as often as a jumpy chameleon. Keeping pace with them is a huge reward to the initiated, but it can be a daunting prospect for anyone who sees a big Technicolor back catalogue as hard, guilty work rather than a treasure chest.

Love Kraft, SFA's seventh album, isn't as forthcoming as the glorious Rings or 1999's Guerrilla (the repository of most of their best-known songs). Those who go to it searching for the rabble-rousing mischief of songs such as the Steely Dan-sampling 'The Man Don't Give a Fuck' (still their unofficial anthem) won't find it.

Instead, Super Furry Animals have made a modern-day psychedelic soul record. Recorded in Spain and mixed in Brazil, it opens with the splash of guitarist Bunf diving into a swimming pool; the sound of the band backstroking through a sea of Seventies vinyl would have been just as appropriate. Singer Gruff Rhys cedes some vocal duties to three other Furries. Also on hand are virtuoso string arranger Sean O'Hagan and a 100-piece Catalan choir. Away from Wales, the Super Furries have harnessed all their epic, baroque, sweet and languid instincts and squeezed them into an album that grows more elegant and prodigious with every listen.

On first appearances, though, it feels like the Super Furry mission to cross over into mainstream pop may have just petered out. 'Zoom!', Love Kraft's first track, belies its instantaneous title. Seven minutes long, it features swelling choirs and soul organs, snaking counter-melodies and rotating electric elements that dissolve into a smirking analogue oscillation. It's really great.

But in their attempt to be the Beatles of Sergeant Pepper without having first been the Beatles of 'Love Me Do', a Super Furry penetration of the mass market now seems unlikely. They're just too busy miking up pool balls. The single 'Lazer Beam' is a Jesus Christ Superstar outtake gone delightfully right, but it won't unseat James Blunt any time soon.

Love Kraft is far from impenetrable, though. There is a song nominally about dinosaurs, as daft and inspired as any previous Furry eccentricity. 'Atomic Lust', sung by drummer Daf, is as succinct as the Furries get these days. It's a deceptively subdued strum-along about uncertain love that could draw a wistful sigh of recognition from the stoniest gulag guard.

'The Horn' sustains the Beatles comparison by faintly recalling 'Norwegian Wood', but tottering on three legs. And so it goes on, through ecstatic string sweeps that (I'm reliably informed) recall the Rotary Connection and their arranger, Charles Stepney. There's even one song, 'Psyclone!', whose electronic noises sounds like the Crazy Frog DJ-ing with a better playlist. It takes a while, then, for the deep mechanisms of Love Kraft to reveal themselves fully. They don't just shake their 'ba ba ba's at the listener. But when the Furry logic does dawn, it's clear that this band just get better and better. Their seventh album is expertly nuanced, rarefied and, when you've finished reeling, packed with pop songs. If only the charts would recognise them as such.

GLC to JOIN SFA AT V FESTIVAL - 20/08/2005


GLC TEAM UP WITH SFA GOLDIE LOOKIN' CHAIN have said they're going to team up with the SUPER FURRY ANIMALS for their headlining set tonight (August 20) at the CHELMSFORD leg of the V FESTIVAL.

The Newport outfit will join SFA to perform a song which is currently being kept under wraps on the Volvic stage.

The Maggot, who is celebrating his "42nd" birthday today, told NME.COM: "We're definitely doing a collaboration. We're not sure what it is yet but we're gonna turn and see what they say."

It is the first time in almost a year the two bands have teamed up to sing together.

The last time the GLC and SFA performed onstage was at The Carling Weekend: Reading Festival.

Speaking about their earlier performance on the main stage The Maggot added: "It was my birthday today. I'm 42 today. It went very well. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate a birthday. So many people turned up for my party and I'm absolutely amazed I'm so popular."
SFA ON TOP OF THE POPS - 18/08/2005


7:00pm - 7:35pm BBC2

This week's best-selling singles, with live performances and pre-chart exclusives. With Ian Brown, Athlete, John Legend, Girls Aloud and the Super Furry Animals.
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