Dressed down psychedelicists give north Wales a taste of the tropics
Super Furry Animals have always been such champion stoners that it stood to reason that their stoner-rock phase would be champion. Yes, you read that right. Despite a 12-year history as eternal bridesmaids to a conveyor belt of lesser visionaries, their last album, ‘Phantom Power’, ended up being their most commercially successful to date. The upshot is that they were allowed to go and make their new one, ‘Love Kraft’, in Brazil, where frontman Gruff Rhys says the intense heat landed them with a record that was “dense”.
This tour, then, is to road-test the new stuff – eight new songs and no yetis. There’s talk of robot-like creations (“Something so new that it doesn’t have a name, because they’re going to be futuristic and robots are history, innit,” Gruff will tell us later) for the autumn tours, but for now the sole concession to pantomime is a curious alien crash helmet worn by Gruff for the lush, opening ‘Slow Life’. But in doing something that’s more conservative on the surface, we’re reminded just how daring and inventive the Furries really are. Because while ‘Love Kraft’ is certainly not a techno record, it’s their most mashed work to date; it’s like ‘White Album’-era Beatles playing in an underground echo chamber and offset tonight with smacky rave visuals to fry the brain.
There’s still range, of course, and to prove it vocals are shared, with Bunf taking the lead on sea shanty ‘The Horn’ and Daf on the cushion-soft ‘Atomik Lust’, both a swashbuckling world away from the opiated sludge-rock of ‘Zoom!’ or the pretty ‘Frequency’. The back catalogue stuff, meanwhile, is specially selected to fit the earthtones of the new songs, so we get nice ethereal standards like ‘Hello Sunshine’, ‘Something 4 The Weekend’ and ‘Ice Hockey Hair’, which over the years has blossomed and become a peak in a setlist that’s full of them. Doing away with the gimmickry has only served to prove what a truly inventive and – though we might want to whisper this – mature band the Super Furry Animals have become. Until those futuristic robots arrive anyway.