Super Furry Animals... Come brain or shine
11 SFA Tunes to Start Your Summer With (part 1)
Published on June 1st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Super Furry Animals may never have quite enjoyed the kind of universal recognition that any fair planet would grant them, but their influence on fellow musicians should not be underestimated. The following notable testimonials have featured on Rocksucker’s very pages, and you’ll find many more out there on others’ (click on the artist in question for a link to the interview)…
“They’re a great band. Great musicians. Choc-a-bloc with ideas, aren’t they? Every project they do is completely different from the last one.” – Ian Brown
“You can be in the music world, surround yourself with music and friends who are into music, and you think that everyone knows the stuff that you do. Take Super Furry Animals: a really brilliant, important band, but you talk to a bloke on the street, talk to a nurse or a mechanic, or someone’s mum, and they’ll go, ‘Who?’ – ‘Super Furry Animals, they’re fucking brilliant!’ – ‘Never heard of them.’ A lot of bands don’t cross over. – Mathew Priest, Dodgy
“Super Furry Animals are my favourite functioning band in the world. I really love that band and I still stay in contact with those dudes. I’ve played solo shows with Gruff.” – Jim Fairchild, Grandaddy/Modest Mouse/All Smiles
“That was a fantastic tour! Not only were we already fans of theirs but it was also our first trip to England. On top of everything else, they were super nice guys and really helped show us the ropes of touring over there as well as introducing us to some great bands we’d not heard of at the time, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, The White Noise, etc.” – Bill Doss, The Olivia Tremor Control/The Sunshine Fix/The Apples in Stereo
“That’s what you call a pop group. I aspire to be something like Super Furry Animals. They’re a fucking amazing band.” – Peter ‘Digsy’ Deary, The Sums/Smaller
“I’m a massive fan of them. If there’s one man I could marry, it would be Gruff [Rhys]. He’s just sex on legs. We supported them once at the Hackney Ocean and I basically told him how much I loved him.” – Tom Bellamy, The Cooper Temple Clause/White Belt Yellow Tag
“There was only one band that could keep up with us and that was the Super Furries. They’re fucking brilliant, and all good lads, but they were off their heads all the time, 24/7.” – Franny Griffiths, Space/Dust
“[Gary Lightbody] got me into Super Furry Animals. We did a Late Night Tales album and we made sure we had a Super Furry Animals track on it, which was “Download” [from 1997 album Radiator]. We’re all big fans of Super Furry Animals, actually, and we’ve been to see them live quite a few times. They make great pop music but they make some really challenging music as well, which is unusual. I think they do pop in their own way, which is something to really admire.” – Tom Simpson, Snow Patrol
Suffice it to say, Rocksucker loves Super Furry Animals, so we are presently rather excited to have heard that keyboardist/electronics wizard Cian Ciaran is about to release a solo album titled Outside In through Strangetown Records on 30th July – why, here’s a taster of it, namely the lush, stately and surprisingly Lennon-ish “You & Me” (very different to his early Acid Casuals stuff of course, but a logical albeit major progression from Omni, and certainly from songs like “Cabin Fever”, “Carbon Dating” and “Walk You Home”)…
And…AND…Super Furry bassist Guto Pryce has teamed up with Lindsey Leven to form the duo Gulp – there are murmurings of a four-track EP on the horizon, also to be released on Strangetown Records, but for now check out the sleek and sassy “Game Love”, fully loaded with Pryce’s distinctive bass plinks, Leven’s deliciously airy vocal and a rocking way with synth…(by the way, the song’s being released on white vinyl 7″ on 4th June, pre-orderable from here)…
And…AND…AAAAANNND…guitarist Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford is apparently working on some soundscapes for Manchester Museum and John Rylands library, as well (fingers crossed) as a solo album proper, which also promises much if his songwriting contributions to the band are anything to go by.
So, in celebration of this wave of Super Furry activity, which for Rocksucker also includes booking a ticket to see Gruff Rhys perform Hotel Shampoo at the Royal Festival Hall on 6th July, we bring you 11 SFA Tunes to Start Your Summer With. Enjoy!
“The Teacher” (from 1999 album Guerrilla)
The greatest song ever written about wanting to come home from school and start a band (a nuance hinted at by the line “want to come home from school and start a band”), “The Teacher” is a rushing, screaming blast of bratty odd-pop and therefore ideally placed to be the first song you play the very moment the sun comes back out. Some would argue “Northern Lites” to be the stand-out summer option on Guerrilla, but that’s really a midsummer sort of song, one to take on holiday with you. Then there’s “Nightvision”, which should just be playing all the time, everywhere.
Heck, we’ll go further here – if “The Teacher” is the goal (ahem: “GOOOAAALLL!!!”), then “Northern Lites” is the victory dance, and “Nightvision” the debauched celebrations later where it all goes badly wrong and someone ends up getting punched by the bouncer. All of which makes “Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy” the fond recollection of that crazy night thereafter, I suppose.
Anyway, dig that big ol’ Roobarb and Custard guitar riff, presumably courtesy of The Teacher himself, Bunf. This song is a master class in how to make back-of-neck hairs stand to attention and possibly even burst into flames, all within two and a half minutes. MDMA doesn’t even come close.
“Wrap It Up” (B-side circa 1997 album Radiator)
Outrageously consigned to mere B-side status, in this case to “The International Language of Screaming”, “Wrap It Up” was not even included on 1998 B-sides and rarities compilation Out Spaced (more on that later). Mind you, the same could be said of “Lazy Life (Of No Fixed Identity)”, “Death By Melody”, “Waiting to Happen”, “(Nid) Hon Yw’r GÃ¢n Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Iaith”, “Cryndod Yn Dy Lais”, “Foxy Music”, “Hit and Run”…basically, SFA had more great songs around this time than they knew what to do with, posing the kind of selection headache – diplomatically solved, no doubt – that their prolificness would continue to throw up.
“Wrap It Up” is the sound of a band revelling in the greatness they have found in each other, the feel-good factor cranked up to inordinate levels by another big, glam lead guitar line and such grin-inducing lyrics as “Sometimes they call me The Dealer / I mean, I deals in ideals / You may consult me if you have the fear”. Experience the euphoric key change towards the end and you’ll understand why this simply must soundtrack your re-acquaintance with an old friend called Mr Blue Sky.
“Bad Behaviour” (from 1996 album Fuzzy Logic)
This heroic wig-out is quite possibly the smartest thing that could still be labelled as dumb. Don’t let the boogie-punk chord progressions fool you – they’re just one part of a whole that is so distinctly, uniquely Super Furry Animals. “I remember, once I had a brain / Amnesia never crossed my mind / Tonsillitis was my alibi / Truancy was my vocation” – if there’s ever been a better lyric about youthful boisterousness spilling over into sheer unruliness, we’re yet to be made aware of it.
Once “Bad Behaviour” hits its apex, guitars are let fly like racing dogs released from their starting traps, including one high-pitched tremolo so over the top that it just has to be a sample…hasn’t it? We’re going to go for the adjective ‘dizzying’ to sum this one up, and much like the effect of renewed sunshine: it will make you feel younger.
“Slow Life” (from 2003 album Phantom Power)
Phantom Power is such a perfect album that it seems a shame to ignore its many stellar tracks in favour of The Obvious Pick, but “Slow Life” has healing properties that are essential for your start-of-summer revelry. For starters, it can cure you of your cider/Pimms/gin and tonic-induced hangover, and quite possibly the Earth of all disease if only it were given the chance. Rarely has pop music been so epic and so genuinely creative – in fact, here’s some footage of SFA playing it live at Glastonbury in 2007, when Rocksucker was there in person to witness them bringing the sun back out with “Hello Sunshine” (after which Rhys quipped, “This next song is called “Hello Lightning, Thunder and Rain!”)…
Good grief, “Hello Sunshine” – that’s got to be a pretty nifty summer-starter, given its title and all. Furthermore, “Slow Life” makes for a good juncture at which to commend the fantastic string arrangements of Sean O’Hagan, and say how wonderful his music as The High Llamas is.
“Moped Eyes” (from 2009 album Dark Days/Light Years)
A kickin’ beat and concrete slab of a bassline get this absurdly sunny slice of futuristic psych-soul underway, with Ciaran’s warm keys, Rhys’s impossibly sexy vocal and chorus harmonies that make ‘otherworldly’ sound as breezy and carefree as it conceivably could ever have been. “Hot wheels at traffic lights / Hot deals, transactional rights / From middle-age sophisticates / To stone aged reprobates” – whether or not lyrics are your ‘bag’, you’ve got to admit this is a damn sight more entertaining than anything – absolutely anything – that the likes of NME and Q have hyped to buggery over the last few years.
Oh, and it started life as a jam tentatively entitled “Hot Nutz and Endless Nights”…