Facts about this album:
* Super Furry Animals launched the download of ‘Dark Days/Light Years’ at the end of a special split-screen film they’d screened online about the making of the album.
* Super Furry Animals released their first recordings in 1995.
* ‘Dark Days/Light Years’ is SFA’s ninth album.
Super Furry Animals have been bending our minds for so long now, they’ve become a bit of an, er, mental institution. The Welsh five-piece are adored by many and hated by virtually no-one. Sure, they’re unlikely to ever bother the upper reaches of the charts again (their last hit was in 2005), but with a solid and devoted fanbase always interested in whatever it is that they do (however unpredictable), not to mention a reputation as one of the best live bands around, they’ll never starve either. They seem content to do their own thing, building up a body of work that matches up against anything contemporary British pop and rock has to offer.
‘Dark Days/Light Years’ reaffirms what a fantastic band they are and is arguably their best offering since 2001’s Mercury-nominated ‘Rings Around The World’. It’s ragged, raw and thrilling and sounds more like the “speaker-blowing” record that frontman Gruff Rhys promised us before the release of 2007’s ‘Hey Venus!’. That record provided plenty of glorious, radio-friendly tunes, but was ultimately not quite what was anticipated. Many of the tracks on ‘Dark Days…’ began life at the ‘…Venus!’ sessions and give you a much better idea of what Rhys was getting at.
The likes of opener ‘Crazy Naked Girls’ and closer ‘Pric’ are sprawling epics; as their silly titles indicate, these stoned, psychedelic jams capture the sound of old mates playing in a room and simply having loads of fun. Elsewhere, ‘Inconvenience’ and ‘Mountain’ are no less rocky, but they are neatly trimmed down into short, sharp glam-pop/rock cut from the same cloth as previous SFA hits ‘Golden Retriever’ and ‘God! Show Me Magic’.
When the amps are turned down there are some breathtakingly beautiful moments. The shimmering ‘Cardiff In The Sun’ is one of the best things the group have ever done, a lovely homage to the city that birthed them, while the brilliantly titled ‘The Very Best Of Neil Diamond’ is a pop gem whose infuriatingly catchy hook comes courtesy of a Persian saz. Elsewhere, ‘Inaugural Trams’ is a euphoric Kraftwerk homage (featuring guest vocals from Franz Ferdinand’s Nick McCarthy), which – no kidding – joyfully celebrates the completion of an unnamed German city’s fully-integrated transport system. It’s also the only song on the record that sounds even remotely like Rhys’ hugely successful ’80s-themed side-project Neon Neon.
So, business as usual then; SFA have made another enormously enjoyable record, but one that is unlikely to ‘do an Elbow’ and suddenly make them a serious mainstream proposition again. But at least they’re doing what the hell they like, as always.