One band, two reviewers and Belgian beer on draught. A lethal, yet exciting combination.
Hey there, Damian here. When this album came through the letterbox there was a lot of squabbling around headquarters as to who should get to review it. In the end, Richard and myself simply strode off to a local drinking establishment, took over the stereo and drank ourselves silly whilst listening to some wonderful music. 'Twas a good afternoon. Here's our track by track guide to Songbook.
1. Something 4 the Weekend
RF: Aah yes, the SFA in their tank phase? They always had something superior up their sleeve at this period. Contrast this in retrospect with the lumpen Oasis (who were all the rage then kids).
DL: Bloody marvelous. Great chorus, bouncy tune. Still sounds fresh. Nuff said.
2 Its Not the End of the World
RF: That great, perverted ELO walking chorus. One of the highlights from Rings Around the World, which for me was their weakest lp.
DL: Rings Around the World has its moments, and this is one of them. It's got more whoa oh ohs and la la las than a Motown collection but there's still something rather sad about it.
3 Northern Lites
DL: This is so full of sunshine and happiness it should come in a glass with an umbrella sticking out if it. It's even got Steel Drums on it for fucks sake.
RF: The SFA at their most nuts period. A refusal to tow the line has always been their strongpoint. The album this is from, Guerilla, is quite hard, it's quite unrepresentative, but cool. Ever hear the interview with Zoe Ball and Gruff on Wunnerful Radio 1 when this came out? (A period when Miss Ball was trying to show off her indie credentials; that particular week she affirmed her life long fan membership of SFA and interviewed Gruff live on air with the opening question; "So, right now there's a lot of bands from Wales, such as Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia. Do you all get on?" (Wow, heavy question, eh?). Gruff's sarcastic reply; "Yes well, we all live in the same house", and surly cringe inducing silence afterwards was priceless for Ball haters like meself.
4 Juxtaposed With You
RF: I always felt this was better live with Gruff doing his vocals through that weird piece of machinery (do you know what it's called Daims?). Though it's a nice sing along melody, and one song that most people have heard.
DL: That'll be a vocoder Richard. I love this song. There's something quite dated about it. Very classy and smooth. If this song was a drink it'd be a Dry Martini.
5 Slow Life
RF: This illustrates the interest they have in demented electronica, or just shows they are bloody demented, does it not? There is always that druggy, groovy side to them but they balance this beautifully with the winsome pop.
DL: It's twelve songs in one. Great harmonica. Bizarre loops and clicks. Beautiful strings. Excellent hums and wonderfully bonkers from start to finish. I love the middle section where it all goes a bit Forbidden Planet on us. Rocks are slow life? Whatever you say guys, I'm happy.
6 Fire in My Heart
RF: A soft ballad from Guerilla. They really have produced some beautiful, catchy melodies, have they not? They can be so sensitive, and write songs showing the whole range of emotions. Gruff can sing, can't he?
DL: Yes he can sing. Very well.
7 The Man Don't Give a Fuck
RF: Remember seeing them dressed as Yetis playing this? With that great trance/house interlude as they ran off to get into costume? Absolutely brilliant, insistent and should be played at all discos, as from now.
DL:They don't give a fuck about anybody else and neither should we. I want a yeti costume. Seriously, I'd look good with big hairy feet.
8 Hermann Loves Pauline
RF: I remember being struck dumb by the brilliant lyrical content of Radiator (their second album). 1997 and everyone was either being bored by Oasis or getting serious to the Verve and Spiritualized. This was such a breath of fresh air. It's still so punchy.
DL: Lovely Beach Boys style ba ba bas.
9 Play it Cool
RF: Another track from the brilliant Radiator. They always seemed to be in possession of a subversive game plan, one that I instantly wanted to adopt.
DL: Funky as shit. Sounds like a bunch of schoolboys. Annoyingly talented schoolboys mind you, with their ties tucked in and everything.
10 Ice Hockey Hair
RF: What the hell? A chop-change wig out. Yet again, we are on a tour of planet Super Furry.
A piss take of Orange Juices Flesh of My Flesh, or Mercury Rev's Car Wash Hair...? I'm making this up. Seven minutes of surreal behaviour. With fruit, doubtless.
DL: The guitar in this always makes me laugh. It sounds like one of those really bad emotional solos people like Eddie Van Halen and Slash like to do. Somehow it works here though.
11 Do or Die
RF:My fave from Guerrilla. It's a kick ass rock song (I sound like Alan Freeman here) they can really blow a fuse if they want to. This and Callimero (from Mwng) are my favourite stomp-a-thons live. I like all those Kraftwerkisms they've got in here.
DL: How can you not love a song that contains the lyric "we ride tornados./we eat tomatoes"?
12 Rings Around the World
RF:Talking of Kraftwerk, that's a snatch of Kometen Melodie from Autobahn at the beginning is it not? My favourite from the album of the same name. It's got a great driving melody and you want it to get louder, it's just that leetle restrained... Again, a live highlight.
DL: Definitely one of my favourites to hear live. Bouncier than a space hopper. RING RING! RING RING!
13 God! Show me Magic
RF: From the first album. I love the hamster lyric, (which crops up elsewhere on that release). When I first heard this on the radio, I thought they were singing Crap Shopping Day, then told my mates, who then initiated a sing along in Accrington's Arndale Centre, only to be told the proper lyrics, (much to my chagrin)... Another tale from the gutter...
DL: I thought Mick Ronson had died? I swear he's playing guitar on this. Glammer than a silver sequined leotard.
14 Ysbeidiau Heulog
RF: Welsh sounds so fucking rock and roll, (and yes, I'm sorry if I sound patronizing, I don't mean to be, but I sincerely mean it; Welsh sounds rock and roll). Mwng is, after Radiator, my fave lp. There's that great question and answer bit in this.
DL: The worst thing about this song is it makes ignorant fuckwits like myself want to sing along with it at concerts. We must sound fucking ridiculous. The song, by the way, is fantastic.
RF:"Clarity just confuses me..." what an opening lyric. I've always loved the quiet mid section with the mournful brass sound. Always reminds me of trips over the Cumbrian border into Dumfries.
DL: I was ranting about how fantastic the SFA were at a party once (as I often do when I've drank a few too many Hertog's) and some idiot tried to tell me that they were too 'unsophisticated' to take seriously. I played him this and he apologized straight away. That person is now a SFA fan. I'd best not mention his name though or Ben is likely to get upset.
16 Golden Retriever
RF: No other band could get away with writing a hit record, in all sincerity, about a guide dog. I like that rumble-y glam feel to this.
DL: Lude, crude, extremely rude and jaw droppingly fantastic. I can still hear a bit of Son Of My Father in there, but it's fantastic nonetheless.
17 International Language of Screaming
RF: A blast-a-thon that always got played in my car as I went home from my corporate nightmare of a job. I left it soon afterwards. The job that is.
DL: My favourite song title of theirs, amazing live.There's a magnificent WOO halfway through. I just have to pogo up and down when I hear it. Everybody! LA LA LA LA.........
18 Hello Sunshine
RF: I love this song. Phantom Power was such a return to form. I even like the remix on Phantom Phoarce. I'll leave you to mention the lyrical content, Mr. Leslie
DL: I'm pleased they left the haunting intro sample of Wendy and Bonnie's 'By The Sea' on here but those lyrics? Genius. "I'm a Minger. You're a Minger too. So come on Minger I want to Ming with you." It doesn't get much better than that as far as I'm concerned.
19 Hometown Unicorn
RF: Amon Duul 2 type title, (I've always thought they were carrying the great progressive/ experimental banner forward), and a sly meandering melody to boot. Again, think 1996 and all that crap Cockerney shite pedaled by Blur, and compare it to this. Much braver.
DL: This is the weakest song on here as far as I'm concerned but it's still class. You know, this collection just proves to me that they've never released a bad single.
20 If You Didn't Want Me To Destroy You
RF: An early classic, the most Britpop they got I think. What's that song when he mentions "stumbling through the vortex in a jacket made of Gore-Tex?"
DL: It's got all the stings and things that made people flock out and by the Verve by the vanload. Perhaps this was too happy for people? I bought the Verve too, but this is better.
RF: Their first release? I'm not sure. I remember Peely playing this and me being quite shocked as I'd not heard Welsh on a record before. It's such a good indication of the timeless nature of their music. It doesn't sound dated in anyway. Testament to bloody mindedness and talent, I'm sure you'd agree, readers.
DL: It starts off like some bloody Dwight Yoakam track or something and then builds into something meatier. If only every country influenced rock song sounded this good. There's a great menace to the guitars too. Is that it? Well, we'll have to play it again. Get the drinks in Richard.
Words : Richard Foster and Damian Leslie