New York Bowery Ballroom

It won't stun you to learn that our US friends haven't quite got their heads around the [B]Super Furries[/B] yet...

It won’t stun you to learn that our US friends haven’t quite got their heads around the Super Furries yet. They might be playing the same venue as the Manics, but ‘Radiator’ has only just come out over here and they remain largely the preserve of Anglophiles from major cities. When the US wants a taste of nu psychedelia, it turns to The Beta Band – a band whose records have got frothing reviews and who last week played in New York at the bigger Irving Plaza venue. The Furries still have much to do to catch up with them, which makes this gig even more of a triumph.

They’re preceded by Those Bastard Souls, a gnarled-up indie supergroup featuring ex-members of Red Red Meat, The Grifters and Jeff Buckley‘s backing band. Their black-hearted take on Americana (they’re wearing dark suits and cowboy hats) clearly has its blueprint with The Bad Seeds, but as the violins screech around singer David Shouse‘s maudlin vocals, it’s obvious there’s something bleaker and more original about what they’re doing.

Songs like ‘Up To You’, ‘Has Anybody Seen Her’ and ‘Telegram’, all taken from their current ‘Debt And Departure’ album, spark and spit like damp logs on a fire. And at the centre of it all, Shouse, with his laconic chat and dead-eyed lyrical precision, stands stock still while it all rages around him. It’s hardly the ideal introduction to the Super Furries, but as the Souls‘ set grinds ever onwards, the impatience of some of the crowd means that when Gruff and co finally do hit the stage, they’re met with near hysterical screaming.

This immediately takes them by surprise: a) because they’re starting with the esoteric techno of ‘Wherever I Lay My Phone (That’s My Home)’, a song that approximately seven people in America have ever heard, and b) by this time it’s 12.30am and, having smoked themselves blue earlier in the evening, any high-pitched noise not made by the band themselves is bound to cause confusion. Still, such a reception visibly relaxes them, and what follows is one of the best gigs they’ve played this year.

Joined by a horn section hired that morning – consisting of one very small woman in glasses and one very tall man in sunglasses, both in nun’s costumes – they proceed to stretch, bend and elongate the songs from ‘Guerrilla’ until they’re barely recognisable. ‘Night Vision’ is a ragged psychedelic cough featuring Gruff staring intently at his knees, ‘Northern Lites’ is as golden and symphonic as it is on record and when they finally arrive at ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’, they’re determined to make it last longer than any song has ever lasted before.

Twenty minutes later, the venue is all but deserted, but the tapes are still spewing out looped vocals and keyboard static. The Furries, meanwhile, are getting on a bus and heading south to Washington. They might not have broken the US yet, but they’re fast letting it know how it sounds to be cracked.

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