Sketchy biog fails to capture this band's 'shroom-addled essence
According to singer Gruff Rhys, Rise Of The Super Furry Animals “lifts the lid on the revolutionary, crazed and beautiful musical events and conversations” that occurred during the band’s 1990s ascent. Written with help from the Cardiff five-piece and cased in a psychedelic cover by their sleeve designer Pete Fowler, Ric Rawlins’ biography promises enlightening insight to the wild formative years of an endlessly fascinating group.
But music journalist Rawlins – who first met the band in while they were making 2009’s ‘Dark Days/Light Years’ – gives Planet SFA only a swift, cursory fly-by. Over a meagre 200-ish pages, this story unfolds like a flick-book of snapshots from the Cardiff band’s long and fascinating career. We briefly glimpse Gruff Rhys meeting guitarist Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford while fare-dodging on the roof of a moving train; and actor Rhys Ifans – who left before they released any albums – running rampage as their first singer.
Later, they hang out with Howard Marks at his villa in Majorca and navigate the nation’s rave festivals in the tank that Creation Records bought them to turn into a heavily armoured soundsystem. But these are all fuzzy, often fictionalized vignettes that fly past without leaving behind much of a vapour trail of depth, analysis or insight. Most of the members’ pre-band lives are dispatched in short, Smash Hits-style fact boxes that reveal virtually nothing about them. The author even assumes (wrongly) that fans aren’t interested in any albums beyond 2000’s ‘Mwng’; so, after hitting the millennium, entire eras of recordings, campaigns and tours that saw seismic shifts in the band’s style and mentality – the solemn twist of ‘Phantom Power’ and its yeti psychosis, for instance – are tossed away in a few paragraphs.
A vision of what might have been emerges halfway through, when two chapters – five times the space allocated to 2001’s ‘Rings Around The World’ – are given to a brilliant in-depth description of the band’s fraught trip to Columbia to film a video for 1997 single ‘Demons’. If the same care and attention had been cast across this intriguing band’s full lifespan, this could have been Mötley Crüe’s legendary tome The Dirt on mushrooms. Instead, it’s a tragically wasted opportunity.
Release date: 19 Feb, 2015