Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading (and reviewing) ‘The Rise of the Super Furry Animals’ by Ric Rawlins. This book, aside being thoroughly enjoyable, kicked off a re-realised obsession...I became a sort of born again Super Furry Animals fanatic, if you will. I realise I am skewing the title of the article somewhat but, around two chapters in, I found myself putting the book in my lap and proclaiming to my wife (who was half asleep at the time) that: “I think Super Furry Animals are my favourite band of all time, ever!” “Oh,” came the reply.

The point is that this was a band I had liked since around 1998, but had never really, really plummeted into their vast swathes of material. I had a few albums and really dug them but it occurred to me that there were so many more albums, EPs, B-sides that had escaped me. So, I set about getting my backside in gear and since then have bought up all I could find, and there’s a lot. And it is all good. Here's the other odd thing about the fact I have only recently realised how much I love this band - they were the first band I ever saw live. A quick fan site search would have me believe that this was in fact the 11th of May 1998 at the Octagon in Sheffield. I thoroughly enjoyed the gig but, truth be told, I did have a little bit of a crush on one of the people that I went with...(she plays the part of the half asleep wife from earlier in the paragraph incidentally), which is probably the reason I ended up going.

The band recently headlined the Park stage at Glastonbury festival 2015, having re-released their most successful album ‘Mwng’ (a special edition vinyl edition which coincided very nicely with my birthday). Combined with the release of the book about the band there has been somewhat of a resurgence in ‘Furry love’ in some of the music press, so, I shall jump right on that bandwagon. Here are my ten musical reasons for loving the Super Furry Animals:


1. 'Hermann Loves Pauline'

On the surface, Super Furry Animals are true straddlers of the ‘sublime/ridiculous’ line but there is always something that edges them into the sublime side of that line. ‘Hermann Loves Pauline’ relates to the parents of Albert Einstein but also mentions Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera and Marie Curie.

This track also shows the band's ability to throw all of their influences in at once and make it still sound coherent. The track found the band fully embracing their Brit Pop guitar music meets dance music feel and also chucks in a nod to the Beach Boys with the ‘ba ba ba bah’ harmonies. You could be forgiven for not noticing all of these as you listen to the yarn spinning of the teenage Einsteins and asthmatic revolutionaries.

The other pearl of course is the realisation and laughter at one's own joke/incidental word play: “Marie Curie was Polish born but French Bred/HA FRENCH BREAD!”. Come on now, how can you not instantly fall in love with a band that have that line?


2. 'Drawing (Rings Around the World)'

This is the title track from the band's 2001 album, a record which saw the band having a bit of a return to their poppier roots following on from their Welsh language and stripped back masterpiece ‘Mwng’. One thing I think this band do so well is constructing songs that when you take them apart are on paper too minimal to work - yet this isn't noticeable. I must have listened to this song three times a day for the last six months. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not far off as somehow I never tire of listening to this fantastically simple, incredibly repetitive and dangerously catchy song.


3. 'Receptacle for the Respectable'

The previously mentioned tune has that simplicity to it, but ‘Receptacle for the Respectable’ is at the other end of the spectrum. Here we see the Furries trying, and succeeding in this reviewer's ears, to cram as many styles and ideas into one song as possible. There’s a little bit of acid country, a bit of Brit Pop, harmonies, a bit of dance, a bit of a groove and well…a bit of death metal.

What more could you want? Oh that’s right - the drummer singing a gentle bridge. More you say? Okay then, how about one of the Beatles making a guest appearance? Wow, so which bit does said Beatle play/sing then? Well, that would be Paul McCartney chewing celery in time with the music, nothing more nothing less, in a nod to his previous vegetable crunching endeavours with the Beach Boys.


4. 'God Show Me Magic'

I am pleased to say that despite it being close to twenty years old I think the band's second big hit ‘God Show Me Magic’ does not sound at all dated, despite that it does have that unmistakable 90's feel to it. They mix the best of Brit Pop with the band's own unique brand of wit, complete with more fuzz than the original reception of Channel 5. Try listening to this song and not yelling out "GOD", I dare you!


5. 'Fuzzy Birds'

Who else would write a song from the point of view of an electricity generating pet hamster? This is utter genius and quite possibly insanity. While you could probably put a list of the band's songs on a board and throw a dart and that sentiment could be echoed, ‘Fuzzy Birds’ is the one that the true fans would go to instantly if faced with the question: “What do you mean they sing about the oddest things possible but manage not to sound completely batshit crazy?”


6. 'Slow Life'

Footage of the band playing this live at Glastonbury 2007 is one of the reasons I adore this tune. This of course is the song which found Gruff Rhys donning a Power Rangers mask and singing through his eyes and acts as a set opener with the drawn out, laid back, beat driven intro.

This is yet another track that harnesses the full band's ability to kick out some gorgeous harmonies throughout while fusing techno beats and gentle lead vocals along with luscious string arrangements. It is impossible to overstate just how well the Super Furry Animals consistently manage to combine so many elements without you feeling bombarded or dumbfounded.


7. 'Golden Retriever'

Moving on from the band's ability to weave complexity with Power Ranger masks, the other thing the band does perfectly, as they did with ‘Drawing (Rings Around the World), is simplicity. ‘Golden Retriever’ is taken from the same album as ‘Slow Life’, 2003’s ‘Phantom Power’. In stark contrast to the drawn out techno meets Beach Boys, ‘Golden Retriever’ finds the band delving into their glam rock and pop-punk roots with this simple yet perfect three chord number.


8. ‘Run! Christian, Run!’

This song gives me major goosebumps, and I normally crush those that use that phrase but it does. It is such a beautiful song and, laced with such poignantly phrased satire, it speaks of the dangers of the unquestioning nature of organised religion. If you were to read the lyrics on paper without ever hearing the song you could be forgiven for mistaking it for something by metal gods Slayer: “With woman children in line/The men will then gather behind/With knives to their throats they’ll depart/On the midnight train to Jordan.”

It is sublime and terrifying, but, however, when set against its psychedelic meets country back drop with the slide guitars and harmonica it takes on a whole different and delightfully sombre but beautiful tone. Rather than coming across as an angsty comment on mankind's sickening ability to manipulate their fellow humans, it takes on the sound and feel of a tragic love story.


9. ‘Arnofolio/Glo in the Dark’

Taken from the band's ‘B-sides’ and rarities album ‘Outspaced’/‘Something 4 The Weekend’ single, ‘Arnofolio/Glo in the Dark’ serves as a two birds with one stone for the sake of my list.

The eager eyed amongst you will of course notice that I have criminally neglected thus far to include any songs that are sung in the band's native Welsh tongue. I am sorry for this. While I completely love all of those tracks, I do feel that I could not really do them full justice other than to say go and check them out and read about the meanings and stories behind them. There are nuances within them, double meanings and massive cultural significance that is far too complex to go into, so I won’t. Another familiar SFA trait is their quiet verse to loud, jump around chorus songs, such as ‘Demons’, ‘She’s Got Spies’ and ‘Do Or Die’ which could have all served to fill this space.

Combining, however. the old Welsh language and chilled verse before exploding into a surf rock inspired chorus, ‘Arnofolio/Glo In The Dark’ is the perfect tune to get everyone hugging then jumping.


10. ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’

I saved the best until last. To draw things full circle with my first proper introduction to the band on that sweaty May evening in 1998, it was at that same gig is where I first heard 'The Man Don't Give a Fuck'. Although there is never a bad time to listen to it, the front row of a packed gig is certainly up there. And this was back in the 90's. Do you remember that? When people used to bounce at gigs? Well I do, and it was fucking marvellous. Hitting up to the absolute maximum that old quiet to loud formula, this tune tops them all.

The main hook of the song is of course borrowed from the Steely Dan song 'Showbiz Kids'. Super Furry Animals took one line, and looped it and looped it and kept looping it until it became the most euphoric and joyous chorus I have ever heard. In doubling up as being mildly profound yet eloquently simple and bordering on offensive without being gratuitous, this is the perfect modern protest song. Who could forget also the warning sticker on the single version of the track which proclaimed "WARNING: This song contains the word f*ck over 50 times"?

Spurred on heavily by keyboardist/occasional guitarist/various electronic instrument user Cian Ciaran's love of techno music, the band made the perfect hybrid masterpiece that fuses dance music, Brit Pop, protest song and rock music and it never, ever gets old. Hearing that at volume in a room full of people, singing that simple but bang on the money chorus for ten minutes could solidify anyone's place as one of the people who 'the man' doesn't give a fuck about, but forget the man because he's not there and wouldn't get it anyway.

For those interested I very highly recommend viewing footage of the band at Glastonbury 2015. I would advise on the whole set, but if this particular songs draws your intrigue then skips ahead to 1:01:54 and watch eleven and a half minutes of one of the finest performances of a song ever. At the risk of giving the ending away watching the band return to the stage in their costumes which resemble something from a 1970's defunct kids TV show is nothing short of brilliant. To me this song is a magic slice of adrenaline-inducing aural ecstasy.







Related Links:

http://www.superfurry.com/
https://twitter.com/superfurry
https://www.facebook.com/superfurryanimals.sfa


Commenting On: Ten Songs That Made Me Love... - Super Furry Animals








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