This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Soothed by the Super Furries

22nd September 2005

There’s not so much fury in the Furry these days. Now on their sixth or seventh album proper, the Super Furry Animals - possibly the UK’s most underrated, most loveable, most inventive band - soothed us with a very mellow set at Nottingham’s Rock City last night.

Pete Fowler's Songbook artwork

A ten-legged Brian Wilson

I think I must have seen them six, seven or eight times now, the first way back at Glastonbury in 1997 when they bashed their way through the early three-minute footstompers. As the years have come and gone, SFA’s output has become increasingly mature, introspective, outrospective, political - and with their beautiful soundscapes they’re kind of like a ten-legged Brian Wilson for the indie generation. Nowhere else will you find such harmonious melodies played off against pointedly accusatory and topical lyrics. Except maybe with The Flaming Lips, but the Super Furries have much better costumes.

So last night they entered the stage in a golf buggy, wearing fibre optic jump suits, and left to a maelstrom of techno music - as usual. However, the songs were softer, more gentle. Anyone who bought Rings Around The World will remember the delicious anti-religion of Run, Christian, Run. Well the Furries chose to maintain that vibe throughout the middle of the set, selecting sumptious slowies such as Zoom and Atomik Lust.

That said, we still got blistering jump-up-and-downers such as Calimero (the one about the Italian cartoon chicken), The International language of Screaming, a raucous Receptacle For The Respectable and the now traditional closing epic The Man Don’t Give A Fuck.

One of the biggest cheers was for sing-along classic Juxtaposed With U, a lesson in tolerance sung loud by all, seeming more poignant than ever:

You’ve got to tolerate all the people that you hate.
I’m not in love with you, but I won’t hold that against you.

A fire in my heart for ‘Janet’

Amidst the joyous between song banter - where Nottingham was renamed ‘Colin’, before Gruff decided Nottingham should be “more female” (hence him singing to ‘Janet’) - I couldn’t help being overcome with inner glee for all things Super, Furry and Animally once more. This is a glee that has appeared publicly many times. I’ve only met Alan McGee (the Creation Records man who signed them a decade ago) once, and all I said to him that day was “It’s great to meet you. Thanks for the Super Furry Animals”. Embarrassing, but at least I didn’t gush about Oasis like everybody else does.

SFA continue to make great albums and stay inventive. New album Love Kraft is a cuddly, but less instant slab of Welsh wonder. Still, hearing tracks from it last night made me realise the scope and ambition of some of the tracks. Think they sound good on CD? Go see ‘em live.

Adopt an Animal

If you’re not familiar with SFA, here are my suggestions. Best album: Rings Around The World. Second best album: Radiator. Most mental but melodic: Mwng (sung entirely in Welsh). Best track not on any of the albums: Ice Hockey Hair. Alternatively, skip to their singles collection Songbook, and drink in the melodies and fuzzy pop. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.

Hello too to Michael the sound man for letting me in the sound booth and giving me a can of 7up. I didn’t know they still made that.

Responses

# Simon Clayson responded on 22nd September 2005 with...

They are always brilliant, I have never been disappointed (although I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen them now - this is worrisome). Glastonbury ‘97 was my second furry outing. Whatever happened to the orange kagool and glasses? Whatever happened to my wallet?

Last night was different. Mellowed? They certainly have. It’s not necessarily bad, they are just different. Tracks like ‘Calimero’ and ‘International Language of Screaming’ seemed to be lacking urgency. The thing about SFA for me has always been the willingness to give something a go, not to over analyse and just do it. The golf buggy (the number plate was my favourite part) is a classic case of this. But they do it musically as well. A fine line between inspired genius/panto is usually always order of the day.

I’m hard pressed to do a Furries Top Ten, it’s too difficult, although my favourite album is ‘Mwng’. I also think it contains their best ever moment - the last track ‘Gwreiddiau Dwfn’. It’s like a welsh ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ although I can’t understand a bloody word. Second best? I think it may be ‘Phantom Power’ although I can never really be sure. Best track not on an album? It’s either the superior non album version of ‘Something 4 the weekend’ or the brilliantly sad/uplifting ‘Foxy Music’. We’ve talked about b-side bands before. SFA are an example of a good one.

A national institution, they should be savoured now, because like all great bands, you’ll miss them when they’ve gone.

# Richard Rutter responded on 22nd September 2005 with...

I’m off to see them tonight at Brixton Academy - can’t wait. Probably my fifth time seeing SFA live. The new album is grower - a good sign - and I’m really loving it now.

As you say, there’s not as much of the avant-garde/electronic going on nowadays which I do miss a bit, and one of the reasons why Guerilla is probably my fave album:

I got mobile phone.
Wherever I leave ma phone, that’s ma home.
I got mobile phone.

# Simon Collison responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Simon, Richard: I knew you two would be the first to comment about the Super Furries!

Simon, shame I didn’t know you were at the gig. Richard, enjoy the gig tonight.

# Pierce responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Most underrated band ever. I am seeing them this Sunday in Dublin. Excited.

I concur with your positioning of best/secondbest/mostmelodic album. Everyone seems to be saying that the new one is their best ever, but Rings and Radiator are still my favourites.

I’m still not quite sure why they’re not one of the biggest bands in the world. They were on the “New Bands” stage at Oxegen this year! Madness.

# Pierce responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

It’s actually Tuesday that I’m seeing them on in Dublin, I have been informed in the pub. Just in case anyone was panicking, saying “But I’m seeing them on Sunday in so and so!” Though the odds of this are probably fairly slim.

# Ben Ward responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Woohoo, more Super Furry Animals talk. I’m almost disappointed that I didn’t get in first˜ but not really.

I must admit I’ve not listened to Love Kraft very much yet. I heard them preview some new material when they played Somerset House a few months back (since we’re all counting, I think that was the 5th time I’ve seen them). I liked most of it, but remember being unsure about some of the softer ones. I think that is a more a reflection of softer music though, especially in a set mixed up with the Super Furry’s flavour of genre-bending.

Having got Love Kraft, they do seem to be growers, though. Maybe the lack of anything instantly bouncy was a small initial disappointment but patience pays off; I think Cabin Fever is absolutely gorgeous.

Kudos to you Colly. Your Super Furry standard bearing may yet be rewarded in some afterlife (though said afterlife may be populated entirely by the creations of Pete Fowler. Make of that what you will).

# Lee McIvor responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

They’re absolutely fantastic, and one of the most entertaining live bands i’ve ever seen.

Personally I rate their first two albums the best, but as their music has changed, I think it’s brought a new audience, which can only be a good thing. It is amazing how they don’t seem as popular as they should be, but at least that means the rest of us can still get tickets!

# Guy Carberry responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Love Kraft and Phantom Power are their most consistently good albums in my view. The tracks on Love Kraft where the guitarist sings are pretty naff which is odd since the one on Phantom Power was brilliant. I think you could merge the two albums to create a pretty flawless disc. Rings around the world is also pretty excellent but it just doesnt seem correctly sequenced. The first instrumental track for example is in completely the wrong place. Run! Christian Run is perhaps their ultimate track, especially live.

I particularly like the way they release DVDs of their albums with unusual animations and visuals. The Rings Around The World DVD was amazing and, I imagine, great when you’re chemically altered.

I don’t think they’re underated though as people who really appreciate good alternative music usually rate them quite highly. The general populous wouldn’t enjoy the band as they’re ‘too weird’. But then so is a lot of the great music aired on the digital tv station - channel U. Often cutting edge and odd, different genre granted. It’s good that the band are appreciated by the people who like that sort of thing as the mainstream will always be just that - mainstream, mass appeal. SFA would be a dull vehicle in that particular stream.

P.S. I never really got into Guerilla aside from Citizen’s Band (and that was a hidden track!). I’m encouraged to revisit it now though.

# Simon Collison responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Pierce: Ah, the people of Dublin can rest easy. Nothing like turning up for a gig on the wrong night. Yes, I’ve done it.

Ben: I was browsing your SFA photos on Flickr recently. And I am proud to be a SFA standard bearer. It’s a role I enjoy greatly (lost count of how many friends I turned on to the band over the years).

Lee: Ah, Fuzzy Logic is indeed class. I adore Gathering Moss and If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You - classics.

Guy: Citizen’s band! Still the only secret track I know of that you have to rewind track one to get to. Genius - but a bit annoying as I didn’t discover it for ages since I originally had it on vinyl. Go-go girls, they’re a similar thing…

I predict a blogger’s meet-up at some decently located SFA gig in the future. Who fancies that?!

# Guy Carberry responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Fantastic idea!

# Simon Clayson responded on 23rd September 2005 with...

Good idea. This last gig just creeped up me.

Citizens Band. Eluded me for 6 months AND I had the CD! Theres another ‘secret track’ on ‘Out Spaced’ if I’m not mistaken. Another truly great SFA track not really available anywhere is ‘Charge’. Done at a Peel session and only available on the flip 7” of the ‘Ysbeidiau Heulog’ single (As far as I know). Great riff, great and inspired sample. Anyone curious can download ‘Ysbeidiau Heulog’ for free here.

# Ben Ward responded on 24th September 2005 with...

An SFA inspired meet-up sounds like an excellent idea. It would be good to meet you properly after our very brief chat at @media.

Next tour we’ll have to remember this˜

# Barry Bloye responded on 27th September 2005 with...

If anyone has the early version of Guerilla with the paper slip-case, have a look under the flap. There’s a Citizens’ Band glossary!

I absolutely love that track - does anyone know how to get hidden tracks in to iTunes without resorting to recording them through your sound card?

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