Saturday, 2 May 2009

Dark is the day?

Review of SFA's new work published in Scottish Socialist voice May 1st 2009.

Although it is 13 years since their debut album, Fuzzy Logic, Super Furry Animals are still something of an overlooked gem on the music scene. They also are the only group to appear in the NME reading the seminal Scottish socialist work Imagine, apart from the Pussycat Dolls. That last part was a joke!
Their current album Dark Days/Light Years was revealed with an online concert playing it in full a few weeks ago. For me, in our climate-ly changing world it is already the sound of the (premature) summer.
The last Super Furries’ work Hey Venus was a concept album about a young girl running away to the big city. Although containing a couple of cracking pop songs it was fairly short and had a slight feel to it. Dark Days, however, is a massive smorgasbord of tunes with literally something for everything: glam rock, heavy metal samples and disco all make an appearance.
One of the skills that SFA have showed over their nine albums is using all of pop music’s heritage but presenting in a way that is relentlessly current and original. Partially this is down to Gruff Rhys’ lyrics – sample song titles “The Very Best of Neil Diamond” and “Moped Eyes”.
The musical diversity is reflected in the album’s dialectical title – although there is a happy upbeat feel to many of the tracks they are placed in the context of the “dark days” that the planet is currently experiencing. For example the jumpy song “Inaugural Trams” salutes the wonders of an integrated public transport system (yes really) whilst recognising currently such a thing is unlikely, utopian even. Rhys has also said it is a salute to technology: “It’s a celebration of living with science rather than religion”. It also has a real Kraftwerk vibe, to the extent that a member of Franz Ferdinand raps in German throughout it.
There is a degree of retrospection to this work too there are two lengthy electronic soundscapes – which have a techno feel to them. They are a bit softer than some of the Super Furries earlier dance material but are quite stunning and in “Cardiff in the Sun” they have created a beautiful piece of music. There is also a nod to their Welsh roots, having once released an album of entirely Welsh tracks, with “Lliwiau Llachar” meaning Bright Colours.
Personally I think the stand out is “Mt” which is an inspirational celebration of human society – if you only seek out one track make it this one.
An excellent soundtrack for life at the moment then and the funny thing is the Super Furries make it seem so effortless .
Nick McKerrell

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