Drowned in Sound
Another Super Furries album can only mean one thing...
If any other band began their seventh album with...
Under the Influence
Super Furry Animals
Under the Influence
The Super Furry Animals inhabit a world apart. They've recorded some of the most excitingly innovative British pop of the past decade, and yet their sound is also instantly familiar: heir to the Beach Boys' endless California summers and the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour-era psychedelia, prone to Orbital-like electronica eruptions, and as musically omnivorous as David Bowie. The 'Fork archives are littered with encomia to these Welshmen's greatness.
As we suspected all along, their influences sound mighty nice, too. The Super Furries' installment in DMC's Under the Influence series-- previously curated by the likes of Morrissey, Paul Weller, and Ian Brown-- reflects the band's sprawling landscape of sonic reference. The obvious suspects (the Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra) make appearances, but they're surrounded by funk, house, dancehall and, gulp, opera. In the wake of similar compilations like Grandaddy's Below the Radio, The Trip and Back to Mine series, and Optimo's How to Kill the DJ [Part Two]-- not to mention Now! That's What I Call Music-- SFA's picks bolster the case that the iPod age hasn't killed the mixtape, after all.
Several tracks should be required listening: Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair", MC5's "Kick Out the Jams", and of course, the Beach Boys' shimmering "Feel Flows", originally from 1971's then-underrated Surf's Up. However, this compilation also boasts a memorable rarity or two. For instance, it includes to my knowledge the first CD release (aside from a 2003, similarly SFA-culled Mojo comp) of Dennis Wilson's lush 1970 B-side "Lady".
The band's five members each contribute three selections to the effort, adding to the disc's diversity. Singer Gruff Rhys turns in some of the superest, furriest choices, representing Wales with the skewed, Left Banke-like chamber-pop of the Gorky's Zygotic Minci stalker ballad "Christina" and some minimalist Welsh-language synth-rock by Datblygu that wouldn't be out of place on Rhys's recent solo album. Drummer Dafydd Ieuan turns in ELO's mini-epic "Telephone Line", which is practically an SFA template. Predictably, keyboardist Cian Cirn is responsible for a couple of electronic club-thumpers, Humanoid's "Stakker Humanoid" and Joey Beltram's "Energy Flash". But he also throws in the disc's classical number, Bizet's "Pearl Fishers". Underworld's "Rez", which beeps almost exactly like my girlfriend's alarm clock, was one of Ieuan's picks.
It promises to be a Super Furry year: A singles compilation and Rhys's solo album came out (how do you say "dropped" in Welsh?) earlier in 2005, several of the band's finest records have just been reissued, and a new full-length is on the way. It remains to be seen where the Super Furries, now more than a decade old, intend to go next. This Under the Influence set underscores where the band has come from, and it's a wonderful world.
-Marc Hogan, May 4, 2005
Super Furry Animals : Wrexham, Newi, Wednesday May 25, 2005
Super Furry Animals have always been such champion stoners that it stood to reason that their stoner-rock phase would be champion. Yes, you read that right. Despite a 12-year history as eternal bridesmaids to a conveyor belt of lesser visionaries, their last album, 'Phantom Power', ended up being their most commercially successful to date. The upshot is that they were allowed to go and make their new one, 'Love Kraft', in Brazil, where frontman Gruff Rhys says the intense heat landed them with a record that was "dense".
This tour, then, is to road-test the new stuff eight new songs and no yetis. There's talk of robot-like creations ("Something so new that it doesn't have a name, because they're going to be futuristic and robots are history, innit," Gruff will tell us later) for the autumn tours, but for now the sole concession to pantomime is a curious alien crash helmet worn by Gruff for the lush, opening 'Slow Life'. But in doing something that's more conservative on the surface, we're reminded just how daring and inventive the Furries really are. Because while 'Love Kraft' is certainly not a techno record, it's their most mashed work to date; it's like 'White Album'-era Beatles playing in an underground echo chamber and offset tonight with smacky rave visuals to fry the brain.
There's still range, of course, and to prove it vocals are shared, with Bunf taking the lead on sea shanty 'The Horn' and Daf on the cushion-soft 'Atomik Lust', both a swashbuckling world away from the opiated sludge-rock of 'Zoom!' or the pretty 'Frequency'. The back catalogue stuff, meanwhile, is specially selected to fit the earthtones of the new songs, so we get nice ethereal standards like 'Hello Sunshine', 'Something 4 The Weekend' and 'Ice Hockey Hair', which over the years has blossomed and become a peak in a setlist that's full of them. Doing away with the gimmickry has only served to prove what a truly inventive and though we might want to whisper this mature band the Super Furry Animals have become. Until those futuristic robots arrive anyway.