Gruff Rhys – ‘Seeking New Gods’ review: the search for higher ground leads to pop gold

While the Super Furry Animals leave us hopelessly yearning for a new record, their frontman has crafted another idiosyncratic gem of his own

It’s amazing to think that, if we ever reach 2023, it will be 30 years since the Super Furry Animals first formed in Cardiff. During that time, eccentric frontman Gruff Rhys has consistently crafted a body of work both brilliant and bonkers, be it with the Super Furries, his electro side outfit Neon Neon or through his impressive solo career, which now finds him on album number seven.

Loosely based on the history and mythology surrounding an East Asian volcano known as Mount Paektu, ‘Seeking New Gods’ finds Gruff delving back into his pop roots – and none more so than on the piano-plinking recent single ‘Loan Your Loneliness’. Backed by cosmic synths and ex-Flaming Lips percussionist Kliph Scurlock’s stomping drumbeat, this jaunty track is easily the closest thing to the Super Furries that the frontman has produced in years; the tune sits perfectly alongside the likes of early 2000s classics ‘Golden Retriever’ and ‘Rings Around The World’.

Then there’s the hilariously titled ‘Hiking In Lightning’, a driving pop number you could easily imagine soundtracking a cartoon video with the fuzzy haired frontman at the fore, comically side-stepping lightning bolts like Inspector Gadget.

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‘Mausoleum Of My Former Self’, meanwhile, is a grandiose opener awash with gentle piano keys and squawking trumpets as Gruff murmurs: “A crater for the great or the good, smoking away as it shoooould”. Soothing single ‘Can’t Carry On’ would seem heartbreaking from its gloomy lyrical content alone, as the frontman cries: “Can’t carry on; can you carry carry carry on? Can’t carry on – can you carry the load?”. Thankfully, Lisa Jên and Mirain Haf Roberts of alternative folk group 9Bach provide angelic harmonies that bring an air of calmness and a sense of hope. Everything, you sense, will be alright in the end.

Elsewhere, closing ballad ‘Distant Snowy Peaks’ paints a glacial terrain similar to that depicted in the video for ‘Can’t Carry On’, only this time Gruff is no longer clinging on to snow flaked mountains; instead, they are slipping further and further from his grasp in the distant skyline.

In ‘Seeking New Gods’, Gruff Rhys has yet again crafted another pop gem of an album. And while we hopelessly yearn for another Super Furries record in the not-too-distant future (it’s been 12 years since the stunning ‘Dark Days/Light Years’), their eccentric frontman continues to thrash out an impressive legacy of his own.

Details

Release date: May 21

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Record label: Rough Trade

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