Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft

Not perfect, sprawling, messy, very sentimental, a tad ill-disciplined but very close to greatness.

 

 

A splash into a pool and it starts. Zoom is a beautifully soft opener, laden with plinky plonky keyboards and vocal harmonies and with a very big nod to Neil Young (structure-wise). Still, I don't give a shit. New Super Furrys albums are always a surprise and a delight and this one is no exception. It's very, very different to previous efforts though, much more mellow, more ambitious in parts, more diffuse than ever before. You can immediately hear that several kitchen sinks have been thrown at it. The lyrics deal with bigger themes, confusuion, love, loss, war... it's a lot more personal this time around. Gone are the witty vignettes characterised by, say, Herman and Pauline, replaced by (seemingly) moon-speak. What's Gruff on about here for instance? (Zoom) "Saw Lord Lucan riding Shergar/to the shops last night/couldn't be positive in /candle light/Chased them in a Musatang/to a Quick Save till/Searched for words to fit the bill/Dug myself a hole/Then I fell into a vacuum."

 

Zoom is classic opener though, never once breaking stride, angular pop it ain't. Atomik Lust is even better, soft and gentle and full of charm. They have a brilliant tendency to write fabulous psychedelic lullabies. Of course the song has to go off course, it's SFA; and it does with a thumpingly glam guitar part that brings you out of a reverie. The Horn (an example of a more "democratic" distribution of song writing in this very democratic band) opens with a balalaika strum before mutating into a chain gang chant that is charming and totally at odds with the Cosmic Otherness of the first two tracks. Ohio Heat is plain bonkers, another G Rhys story of strange characters (this time Salty Maureen, "who had a bun in the oven"). Bonkers it might be but it has the best, most head-nodding chorus this side of Sgt. Peppers, or Pet Sounds, it is so beautiful. And what a chorus, "Ohio Heat/Sweet as sugar from a beet/Sleek as Foxes in the street/Evolution seemed complete". The bit where the pedal steel guitar comes in near the end is a wonderful pop moment. Walk You Home is so lush it could be the Carpenters or Burt Bacharach or Wally Stott. It's got the feel of an old fifties movie, with the string surge at the beginning you expect to see a girl running over a lush field, skirts a-billowing. It's so different from anything else around, so willfully perverse and mainstream (in a very kooky way) the only thing I can hold on to as a reference is Scott 3 or Scott 4, or Dion. Fabulous, quirky, semi-sophisticate pop in a way that Roxy Music made.

 

The single, Lazer Beam, is more obvious SFA. It is completely all over the place, a non-song pop song, a brilliantly messy beginning in which Gruff shouts a lot about "colonialist bastards" over some very strange strings and synths mutates into a thrumming, groovy sing-along  very bloody close to Funkadelic. But so what? At last! It's great fun. Gruff even howls at one point. The quiet bit in the middle is magic too, what with the whispering girl's voice it could be the Cosmic Jokers. And real strings...

 

Frequency is a soft refrain to the madhouse that preceeded it. The lyrics highlight the essential confusion in the choices we all have to make (oops, sorry that was a little too over the top) but, thee again read this. "Famine and war/Rabies and plague/ Or anglepoise lamps/Limoas and shades/Polar bears/Moulting as the icecaps melt down". Golly... Of course it is all set in the most beautiful life-affirming chorus with strings and hand clapping and kazoos. Marvellous.

 

Oi Frango is a lunatic instrumental that HAS to become a TV theme. Psyclone!, the stand -out track on the album, deals with the death of the dinosaurs and is a ponderous, funny stomp - with strings attatched - that somehow (probably through it's complete eccentricity) reminds me of Effervescing Elephant by Syd Barrett.

 

The one track that doesn't do it for me is up next; Back on a Roll is very much a mid-seventies style paeon to life on the road, that somehow sounds mundane compared to all the lunacy around it. Still, its pleasant enough in a knock-about way. Cloudberries is a beautiful love song set against a piano, then building up into a wonderful affirmatory hummed chorus. The backwards guitar half way through only adds to the languorous tone. Then suddenly the track speeds up dramatically becoming in the process a mid seventies Brazillian pop record. You'd think your cup of happiness was complete, but it isn't, as we now get what is called in the sleeve notes the "locust death march" which is a mournful tail out. The last track, Cabin Fever, starts with a lot of piano tinkling and cocktail-party voices, but soon becomes a wonderful love song that really should be in a big 1950s Nyoo Yoik stoile movie. There's a stong hint of Brian Wilson too in the chord  changes and the string arrangements. The middle bit when everything disappears in a whoosh of phaser, and the ending piano coda are so bloody affecting. Gawd, how many bands can get gloopy like this?

 

Not perfect, sprawling, messy, very sentimental, a tad ill-disciplined but very close to greatness.

 

Words: Richard Foster