Released in June 1999, Super Furry Animals‘ third album, Guerrilla, was a seminal record for the Welsh ensemble. While upholding some of the experimental production, avant-garde sound collages, and alternative rock roughness of its predecessor—Radiator—the LP saw the band delve deeper and more confidently into nu-psychedelia, electronic, and playful pop oeuvres. The result was a charmingly bizarre yet welcoming and idiosyncratic sequence that visibly hinted at masterful future releases like Rings Around the World and Phantom Power. By no means Super Furry Animals’ best outing, Guerrilla remains highly enjoyable and emblematic, and this brand new 20th-anniversary reissue—with multiple bonus tracks and demos—is a great testament to that.
Produced by the band at Real World Studios in England, Guerrilla marked the first time they recorded outside of Wales and without the guidance of Gorwel Owen. It was designed to be an optimistic ” jukebox sort of album, where you listen to it and every song is different”, according to frontman Gruff Rhys. Beyond that, the group’s embracing of digital modulations, bubbly songwriting, luscious arrangements, and in-studio accidental fortunes—rather than guitar-driven angst—landed well with several critics. Guerrilla was included on many ‘Best of 1999′ lists, and two decades later, it still achieves Rhys’ goal of being a “disposable pop album that’s too good to throw away”.
The characteristic cheekiness of Super Furry Animals is clear from the onset, with the brief “Check It Out” (a mix of dub, jazz, funk, and hip-hop, if any classifications are possible) spawning an eclectic and bouncy way to begin. Afterward, “Do or Die” chugs along with futuristic surf-rock zeal and plenty of attractive hooks, only to be followed by the beautifully ornamented ballad “The Turning Tide”, the vibrantly tropical “Northern Lites”, and the distorted, childlike unruliness of “Night Vision”.
Later, the inventive and prophetic electronic wackiness of “Wherever I Lay My Phone (That’s My Home)” juxtaposes the chilling soundscape of “Some Things Come from Nothing” very well, too. In contrast, “The Teacher” recalls the raucousness of Radiator before “Fire in My Heart” delves elegantly into psychedelic folk. As the LP wraps up, “Chewing Chewing Gum” presents amiable DIY aimlessness before the free-for-all galactic fun of “Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy”. True to Rhys’ intentions, Guerrilla flows like a randomized hodgepodge of wildly dissimilar—yet all essential and enjoyable—delights.
Thankfully, there are about two dozen extra tracks for fans to mull over, too, and just about all of them are worthwhile. Specifically, the first disc includes a few B-sides, such as the multifaceted “Rabid Dog” (which alternates between surreal waltz pop and melodic rocker). There’s also the lovely daydreams of “The Matter of Time” and “This, That and The Other”, plus the cheerful falsetto romp of “Colorblind” to appreciate. Disc two—also called My Eyes Began to Grow Into Telescopes—rounds up many previously unreleased selections.
Of these, the triumphant and dense “The Citizen’s Band” (originally a hidden track before “Check It Out”) is among the most wonderfully tight, blissful, and catchy. Elsewhere, the urgent acoustic number “Hand in Hand” (which would eventually become “Frequency” on Love Kraft) is engrossing. “Y Teimland” packs Paul McCartney-esque piano-based poppiness. “John Spex” is a full-blown electronic jam that’s downright hypnotic, if a bit repetitious. Whether it’s new material or alternate versions of Guerrilla staples, these add-ons are very cool.
Twenty years later, Guerrilla remains a self-contained joy and a great example of how unique, self-assured, and mature yet silly Super Furry Animals were at the turn of the century. Sure, their first two LPs were great glimpses into what could be, but it was here that the group first dipped their toes into what would soon make them an imitable and invaluable pop-rock darling. Luckily, this 20th-anniversary collection also adds enough discerning supplemental treats to keep any diehard devotee happy.