Music

Super Furry Animals: Dark Days/Light Years

Veteran Welsh psych-pop quintet continue to evolve, while revisiting the tripped-out, up-tempo sounds of their early days.


Super Furry Animals

Dark Days/Light Years

Label: Rough Trade
UK Release Date: 2009-04-13
US Release Date: 2009-04-21
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

You can never be too sure what you're going to get with a new Super Furry Animals, but you know it'll be good. Whether heavily produced or cut with few frills, sung in English or Welsh, and regardless of the presence of tambourines (which were barred from use on the new album), the Furries create delectable psych-pop for the modern world. The band have never made a mediocre album, much less a bad one. With so few smart investment options these days, a new Super Furry Animals CD is a sure bet.

True to form, the quintet from Wales yields strong returns on their ninth studio album, Dark Days/Light Years. If you though their previous platter, Hey Venus, was too laid-back and straightforward, well, you're wrong (and Zeth Lundy will tell you why right here). Still, it's your prerogative to long for the band's wackier, more up-tempo days of yore. Their opening salvo of late '90s, post-Britpop records are all uniformly excellent. Of course, Super Furry Animals have moved ahead since then. Their new album is far from a retread of past ideas.

In some ways, Dark Days/Light Years carries on where Hey Venus left off. Now with their second album for indie label Rough Trade, it's clear that the band are happy to operate with less studio gimmickry and gloss than during their major label days. Like its predecessor, the new album often has a live-in-studio feel to it. The major difference is that, this time, that live sound is channeled through what must be a truckload of stomp boxes and processors. This music is, like, trippy, man! SFA pile on the effects, but the overall sound still feels more immediate and raw than their slickly tricked-out efforts from earlier in the decade. Discs like Phantom Power and Love Kraft were miracles of big budget technology fused with renegade creativity. On Dark Days/Light Years, the Furries still have plenty of the latter, and that's more than enough.

Opening track "Crazy Naked Girls" sets the album's tone, as wah-wah guitars swirl around a double-time snare beat, and Gruff Rhys belts out the title line in an ecstatic state. It's enough to induce an acid flashback (one would imagine). While that song is mostly a good groove gone wild, the band prove themselves plenty capable of reigning in their wild side long to cut a great pop song, as evidenced by the bopping and bleeping "Inaugural Trams." It's the kind of bubblegum psychedelia that only Super Furry Animals are capable of successfully concocting. The song also features a non-English verse sung in – no, it's not Welsh! (there's a whole song of that later) – sung in German, courtesy of guest sänger-sprecher Nick McCarthy, on loan from Franz Ferdinand).

Throughout Dark Days/Light Years, the band continue to investigate that weird and wondrous land where trippy textures and catchy tunes intersect. Over eight minutes long, "Cardfiff in the Sun" begins in a languid, pastoral place before becoming gradually overwhelmed by Huw Bunford's warped and crunchy guitar. Contrast that with the following track, "The Best of Neil Diamond," a funky single candidate that bounces Caribbean beats off of a slinky spy motif. "White Socks/Flip Flops," meanwhile, runs on a Keith Richards riff and an insistent beat. Just try not to think too much about the titular fashion faux pas while you listen, or you'll miss that delicious, mid-song "hey, hey, hey!".

Without making any major alterations to their blueprint for music making, Super Furry Animals have nonetheless found a fresh and vibrant new corner of their odd little niche. Not that anyone who's been paying attention would have expected the group to simply coast. Still, it's always impressive when a group can continue to sound creative and enthused this far into their career. They may be rock veterans by now, but, on Dark Days/Light Years, Super Furry Animals show they haven't lost their youthful spirit.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image