Complete Guide: Super Furry Animals

From 'Fuzzy Logic' to 'Dark Days/Light Years'...

To misquote one of their own songs: Super Furry Animals didn't give a f*ck.

Psychedelic miscreants eager to both explore Welsh identity and skinny dip through the nether regions of the soul, the band were capable of both great and absolute nonsense – ironically, both extremes were utterly gripping and utterly entertaining.

Emerging from their slumber, Super Furry Animals are set to re-release their Welsh language album 'Mwng' through Domino on May 1st.

Organising a handful of much anticipated live shows, it already feels as through the group have never been away.

Without further ado, Clash presents… the complete guide to Super Furry Animals.

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Fuzzy Logic
Fuzzy by name, fuzzy by nature. This debut was counted as Britpop at the time, but was obviously more like Welsh psychedelic-proggy-magic-pop. Opener ‘Show Me Magic’ was loud, catchy and bonkers. It was maybe the best bits of the end of a Blur album track and absolutely nothing like Oasis. ‘Something for The Weekend’ was just incredible pop music, packed with riffs and harmonies, like T-Rex, ELO or Bowie.

Even in this earliest of Furry days, there was the basis of a beautiful vintage-tinged ballad in songs like ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’. We could have guessed from here that great things were to come.

Could this be the definitive SFA album? It’s the one that shaped many a teenage year of life-long Furries’ fans. I’ve seen it bring tears to the eyes of 30-something year old grown men in a way that 'Candle In The Wind' just couldn’t. It’s surely a classic, from the spacey swirls of ‘The Placid Casual’ and ‘She’s Got Spies’ to the incredible singalong-able and euphoric ‘Demons’ and that line we were all so pleased about when we got it right (all together now: "I know that you know that we know they don’t know what’s going on"). And ah, that ‘Shipbuilding’ style trumpet – a sound which became synonymous with SFA for a while. No one dare deny the love between Herman and Pauline.

While other bands were still fannying about fighting in Camden about which Beatle they were, SFA were melting together The Flaming Lips, Steely Dan, Ramones, The Clash, Slade, Soft Machine in some kind of new cartoon world. The band said themselves that they wanted every song to sound different. Miraculously though, it flows like a dream; experiments in electro and sampling accompany beautiful strings, flute, trumpet and steel drums.

‘The Turning Tide’, ‘Northern Lites’ and ‘Fire In My Heart’ may be three of the best melodic pop songs of the decade and they’re all here on one album. Not only that, by they sit freely next to a song recorded to the rhythm of mobile phone interference and the ear-bashing beats of ‘The Door To This House Remains Open’ – a sound that changed what you thought and knew of these South Walians.

The obvious thing to do after your most commercial record to date is to bring out a collection of Welsh language psychedelic pop songs. 'Mwng' is one of their best, yet possibly their most underrated album. It reached number 11 in the UK charts, however, and is still the biggest selling Welsh language album to date.

For many, singing along phonetically to brilliantly catchy songs like ‘Ymaelodi Ar Ymylon’ (the hummy one) or ‘Ysbeidlia Heulog’ (Spadey Eye Hey Log) was part of the immense joy of this album. The repetitive accordion and reverbed, spooky chorus of ‘Pan Ddaw’r Wawr’ is still one of the best SFA moments. It’s quintessential Super Furry Animals – the pop, the psych, the rock, the melodies, the trumpet. It’s not as slick as 'Guerrilla', harking back to the 'Radiator' days – a little trip down memory lane before the next SFA chapter.

Rings Around the World
You know that moment when you put on a new album and it seems to reach inside your brain and fill it with happiness? That’s this album. From the first piano note of ‘Alternate Route to Vulcan’, now so recognisable, to the delicate wonder and aching west coast harmonies of ‘Fragile Happiness’, it’s a mountainous landscape of sounds and experiences. The spine-tingling chorus of ‘Sidewalk Surfer Girl’ again brings a bit of ELO to the valleys and mixes it with heavy riffs and electro flutters. The title track is a psych-pop anthem, an explosion of joy that leads into the beautiful ‘It’s Not The End Of The World’. ‘Receptacle For The Respectable’ is glam, occasionally country, ending in death metal growls over electro – and must be played VERY loud. ‘No Sympathy’ is just mental, in such a great way.

In fact, every track on 'Rings Around The World' is startling, but room must be left to mention ‘Run! Christian, Run!’, a song that can actually make you hallucinate through it's loveliness. Much like the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca, it may make you forgive everyone in the world and run naked through a forest. Let’s not forget 'Rings Around The World' is also an album tackling the spikey issue of humanity AND has Paul McCartney chewing celery and John Cale playing piano on it!

Phantom Power
"I’m a minger, you’re a minger too. So come on mingers, I want to ming with you…" Phantom Power is like Crosby, Stills and Nash meet Fountains of Wayne at the log flume in Barry. Despite apparently being about war, it doesn’t take itself too seriously with songs about mingers, tennis playing sisters and Golden Retrievers, maybe counteracting the heaviness of ‘Rings…’, but keeps the blend of glam, psych pop and big cinematic sound.

‘Piccolo Snare’ goes all psych folk, like Fairport Convention with a pinch of 'White Album' Beatles while the harmonies and slide guitar of the Americana leaning ‘Bleed Forever’ are as soft as a feather duvet. It’s a superb album, but after the enormity of what came before, there’s something missing.

Love Kraft
After three weeks recording in Spain and a name inspired by a sex shop, Love Kraft was born. It’s known as the album where Gruff handed over some of the vocals to other band members. By all means, the songs are good, but would they have been great if Gruff just stayed put as singer? Opener ‘Zoom!’ is pure SFA – punchy, rich, Hammond filled, psychedelic and wondrous. Much of the rest are a delight, often plodding on in a dreamy state; some, however, are a bit ‘meh’.

It’s maybe one of the more soulful SFA albums, with the strings and harmonies on tracks like ‘Walk You Home’ having a bit of a Minnie Riperton vibe. The Spanish heat may have slowed the pace, making for a nice result, but not the ground-breaking work of the legacy to date.

Hey Venus!
Going in the opposite direction to Love Kraft, Hey Venus is raucous, yet melodic, pop with a bit of a vintage twist. There are some beautiful moments that hark back to that cinematic sound. ‘Run Away’, ‘Show Your Hand’ and ‘The Gift That Keeps On Giving’ seem to evoke the spirit of innocent 60s pop by the likes of Francois Hardy.

It’s a fun record, still quite glam, especially with tracks like ‘Into The Night’. And, at just over half an hour, it’s by far their shortest album too. The quieter numbers written by Gruff at this time were saved for his second solo album, 'Candylion'.

Dark Days/Light Years
The ninth studio album from SFA was apparently the record to bring years of forgotten riffs to light. In one way, this means it’s an album encompassing ideas from years of Super Furries. Another way of looking at it is a collection of songs based around ideas that weren’t good enough to make it onto previous albums. It’s a diverse bunch of songs. ‘Moped Eyes’ brings back the Bowie influence of earlier years and ‘The Very Best Of Neil Diamond’ takes a groove and experimental feel that could have worked well on Phantom Power.

‘Cardiff in the Sun’ is beautifully lush, sounding a bit like Neil Diamond himself collaborating with Goldfrapp. But, for some reason, it doesn’t feel like the best the Super Furry Animals could do. It feels a bit strained, a bit old and a bit like their hearts aren’t in it.

Maybe a six year break is just what they needed to feel invigorated back to a golden age of Welsh psychedelia. It’s improbable there will be another Rings Around The World, or even Radiator, but some electro tinged psych pop with fuzzy guitars and big harmonies will be a treat. And that trumpet.

And besides, some Super Furries is always better than no Super Furries.

Words: Gemma Hampson

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'Mwng' will be released on May 1st. Super Furry Animals have confirmed the following shows:

1 Cardiff University Great Hall
2 Cardiff University Great Hall
5 Glasgow O2 Academy
8 London O2 Academy Brixton

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