Maybe yet another brilliant album will make the world realise there’s more to SFA than just weirdness. Then again
Kaleidoscopic goggles in place? Oxygen tank filled with laughing gas and amyl nitrate? Feet strangely mutated into flippers? Then – SPLOOSH! GLUG! TWINKLE! – come with us on a voyage into the watery wonders of the deep in Super Furry Animals’ clockwork Technicolor ‘Love Kraft’, on a dreamy sub-aqua mystery tour through Gruff Rhys’ The Life Psychotropic. Look, a shoal of operatic ELO-boe fish swarming over a coral reef of pure zither! Over there, a trumpet whale trying to mate with a 20ft robot octopus! Watch out, here comes a funky lazer shark, chewing apart a gobful of electric vocoder eels and Tasmanian electro babblefish! And can the bit at the end of track 10 really be the sound of an android rodeo in Atlantis Millennium Stadium? Roll us another mushroom reefer, Brethwyn, we’re going deeper…
Such is the gloopy freakworld conjured by SFA’s seventh studio album, and the sad fact is that – in a moolah-minded world where a band’s record sales are often, wrongly, seen as a mirror to their critical and cultural significance – it’s the weirdness of the thing that’ll be evaluated, not its impact.
There’s a case to be argued that SFA are the most important band of the past 15 years. Come on then Noel, let’s list the attributes of a New Beatles: 1) Ceaseless desire to innovate. Check out the Doors-scuba-diving-into-Hell micro-opera of ‘Zoom!’ , or the way ‘Atomik Lust’ turns a heart-twisting tune into a frenzied Terminator stompalong halfway through, or how ‘The Horn’ finds a middle ground between zither vibes and ‘Yellow Submarine’. 2) Ability to sublimate all genres into their music without losing sight of The Tunes. How many other bands could adapt their set to fit the Acoustic Café, Brixton Academy and the main room at Manumission, or release a cohesive album with a toe in wired future prog ( ‘Zoom!’ ), loping C&W ( ‘Ohio Heat‘), prehistoric funk ( ‘Psyclone!’ ), smoove Bacharach boudoir soul (‘Walk You Home’), mental kiddie electrosquelch pop ( ‘Lazer Beam’) and ‘Coffee & TV’ in space ( ‘Oi Frango’), all coated in cyborg swan noises and crazed cyber-belches? 3) Inate playfulness of lyric and costume without ever spilling over into Coral-style foolishness. Once again, Rhys’ lyrical concerns span the political spectrum from ‘Frequency’’s environmentally astute state-of-the-globe address to chickens taking over the world on ‘Psyclone!’ , while the cover art suggests that they’ll soon be joined onstage by large alien penis monsters. 4) Massive global popularity. Ah, yes, um… have we told you how weird this record is? It’s fucking weird.
Until the most remote Amazonian jungle tribes are humming ‘Demons’, then, ‘Love Kraft’ will remain just another mind-bendingly great, often dazzling SFA record – not quite up there with ‘Radiator’ due to its brace of shonky ballad filler ( ‘Cloudberries’ and ‘Cabin Fever’), but easily as engaging and full of the wild possibilities of pop music as anything else in their peerless canon. Dive, dive, dive…