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PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 16:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

jjon wrote:
Ah, I could talk for hours about why I love Guerrilla and Phantom Power so much. I won't, though. Not here.

Ah, go on. Even if just for Guerrilla Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 06:44    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if you insist, I can (and will) reproduce an article I wrote about Guerrilla a few years ago:

In 1996, Wales’ Super Furry Animals crashed the fag-end of the Britpop party

with their debut long-player, Fuzzy Logic. However, quite apart from pinning its

colours to the mast of a particular movement or genre, the album’s blend of surf-

punk hooks, pastoral folk and playfully abstract lyrics flew the flag for music as

an expression of self; a sonic display of what was bubbling inside of the band, as

opposed to a studied imitation of past luminaries such as The Beatles and The

Kinks. Given the prevailing triumphant mood of Fuzzy Logic, few were prepared

for the follow-up single ‘The Man Don’t Give a F***’, which opened with softly-

uttered political musings before looping the titular refrain (a sample from Steely

Dan’s ‘Showbiz Kids’) over a 5-minute techno stomp. This ensured the band an

induction into the Guinness Book of Records for the use of the most ‘F words’ in

a single (52 times); even more notable given that the track was released over

Christmas! Their sophomore effort, 1997’s Radiator, retained the pop hooks of its

predecessor but cast them in a soberer, more paranoid setting, with lyrics such as

“apathy only ruined me/hanging around waiting for calamity” suggesting that all

was in fact not well in the world of Super Furry Animals. At this time, the post

Britpop climate was resembling more of a wasteland, with Radiohead-esque

proclamations of doom dominating the alternative scene as the millennium

loomed ever closer, and it may have appeared that Super Furry Animals would

continue their descent into earnestness. However, with hindsight, Radiator’s ‘The

International Language of Screaming’ contained a rather pointed couplet: “every

time I look around me, everything seems so stationary/it just sends me the impulse

to become reactionary”. Entirely in line with this statement of intent, 1999’s

Guerrilla was conceived as a full-on ‘pop’ album, an assault on the charts as its

military title implies. Adopting a rule of only recording for the album whilst the

sun was shining, Guerrilla took the bouncy immediacy of Fuzzy Logic to the nth

degree, receiving widespread critical acclaim; although Super Furry Animals’

natural inclinations to experiment prevented it from achieving the commercial

success that it deserved.

Opener ‘Check It Out’ serves as more of a prelude than a stand-alone track, with

the whispered vocal repeating the title over a jaunty electronic rhythm section.

However, the beat soon begins to stutter, the vocals swirl, and the whole thing

speeds up rapidly before crashing straight into the album’s first ‘pop’ turn, ‘Do Or

Die’. The song is under two minutes long and is extremely radio friendly, with

angular pop-rock riffs and nonsensical lyrics about riding tornadoes and eating

tomatoes, but the subtleties of its texture render it even more impressive heard

through headphones than on a car stereo. The Pixies-esque power chords of the

verse quickly give way to an altogether more crunching guitar sound backed by

layers of electronic noises courtesy of the band’s techno wizard/keyboardist Cian

Ciaran (the band started off as a techno outfit before experimenting with the rock

format, and the two styles are uniquely intertwined for much of the album). The

band’s method of manipulating melody by layering sound upon sound over it,

aligned with the increasing energy levels they exert on their respective

instruments as the song reaches its climax, creates an exhilarating effect for the

listener. This ‘swamping of noise’ was key to the ‘shoe-gazing’ scene of late

1980s/early 1990s British bands such as Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain, but

Super Furry Animals’ managing to condense the energy into 3-and-a-half minute

pop songs lends the tactic a direction which is as much joyous as it is raucous. In

short, their use of crescendo is implicit of a remarkable sonic ingenuity.

As soon as ‘Do Or Die’ reaches a shuddering halt, the sound of softly chiming

bells ushers in the album’s first ballad. ‘The Turning Tide’ begins with gently

finger-picked acoustic guitar, Ciaran’s melotron arpeggios and singer/songwriter

Gruff Rhys’ suddenly contemplative lyrics (“it just occurred to me/that things

aren’t as they seem/it’s conspiracy”). A shimmering string section then enters the

fray, almost seeming to sigh with weariness, before the anthemic chorus lets the

sunlight in, creating a ‘blissed-out’ feel-good atmosphere. Rhys gives no

indication that more elegiac lines like “my eyes began to grow into telescopes/that

were looking at a world of quicksand” (‘The Turning Tide’) are any more

carefully considered than seemingly throwaway nonsense like “let’s ride the

camel/one hump or two?” (‘Do Or Die’), and it is thus that Super Furry Animals

are able to guide the listener from one emotional extreme to the other without

appearing trite. The lyrics may not be as instinctive as those of a standard chart-

pop single, but the myriad images they convey, not to mention the dressed-up

subliminal messages they contain, cannot help but intertwine seamlessly with the

music. Not only do they imply deep thought and a creative mind, but they seem to

boldly pronounce that there is a time for fun, and a time for contemplation. The

following track, ‘Northern Lites’, is musical confirmation in itself that joy is as

equally valid an emotion as despair, and to witness the sea of grins that its opening

burst of mariachi horns elicits is to realise that ‘emotion’ in music need not be

inextricably linked with the likes of Radiohead. ‘Northern Lites’ continues in a

distinctly exotic vain, combining rhythmic strumming with trumpets and steel

drums, while the lyrical content reverts to gleeful nonsense. It can mean as much

or as little as you like but, either way, the music does the talking. In fact, without

consulting a lyric sheet, Rhys’ thick Welsh drawl is largely unintelligible much of

the time, so much so that he has been subtitled on television even when speaking

in English. I recall the Singles Reviews section of Melody Maker around the time

of its release, when they used to invite well-known rock personalities to listen to

and discuss the week’s most prominent releases. Unfortunately, I cannot

remember the identity of said star, but I do remember him saying of ‘Northern

Lites’ that he could not understand the lyrics of the song’s final section, but that

he hoped it was “marry me, so marry me”. In fact, Rhys was actually singing

“don’t worry me/or hurry me”, but it perfectly exemplifies how the band’s use of

melody is capable of stirring strong sentimental imagery, in this case bittersweet


Guerrilla continues apace with the extraordinary ‘Nightvision’, which extends

the band’s musical and lyrical palettes even further. “With pine kernel teeth, we

can chew on bone/so count your country overthrown” chants Rhys over a

pounding rhythm section, before a wall of brass, electronica and blaring guitar

collide for the Batman theme-aping chorus. The layering of disparate sounds is

constant throughout the album, and lends it a unique spectrum of colour which is

totally in keeping with the bizarre cover art, which depicts a one-eyed

octopus/mobile phone hybrid with a pipe in its mouth, sitting on the panel of some

kind of control station. It is a highly unlikely, yet beautifully fitting, illustration of

an album that flawlessly melds man and machine. Where so many alternative

rock bands belatedly embrace technology to create soundscapes of futuristic

desolation, Super Furry Animals appear to have unintentionally assimilated it into

their sound as if by a snowballing effect; they will absorb any sound that comes

their way, but it never detracts from the whole. For the telephone and the octopus,

read the blending of electronic sounds with traditional instruments that achieves a

human, and not robotic, effect. Although it appears unintentional, it is a beautiful

unifying concept and, especially given the timing of its release, should have been

hailed as a signpost to the next millennium of popular music. The album’s natural

eclecticism bears more resemblance to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

than to any of the more self-consciously ‘wacky’ bands who sprang up during the

1990s. Ironically for a group who seek to innovate rather than imitate, the spirit

of Super Furry Animals is far more in keeping with The Beatles’ constantly

shifting sound than, for example, oft-accused Beatles sound-a-likes Oasis.

‘Nightvision’ retreats into a bass-heavy electronic wilderness, signalling the

arrival of the album’s more nocturnal mid-section, but not before its chorus

abruptly explodes back into life with extra backing vocals aiding the climactic

effect this time. The following track ‘Wherever I Lay My Phone (That’s My

Home)’ continues the sonic assault suggested by the album’s title; as well as the

“non-violent, direct action” slogan on the cover art; without losing its element of

fun for even a second. It is a raucous, pulsating track, replete with electronic

squelches and nonsensical lyrics such as “she’s got City, I’ve got Guilds/in

desktop publishing” that remind the listener to actually ‘get up and dance’, as

opposed to merely sitting there going deaf, such was the apparent motif of other

‘abrasive’ music around at the time. Rhys alternates lines such as “status symbol

disease says/I’ve got a mobile phone” with chanting the song’s title and even the

name of the band, accentuating his unique perspective on both the material and the

absurd. As much as the music would succeed with a lesser wordsmith at the helm,

Rhys’ self-professed “kitchen sink psychedelia” is both refreshing and utterly

compelling. It is also especially notable given that Welsh is his first language.

Subsequently we find the album’s centre-piece, a mellow and surprisingly moving

electronic number entitled ‘Some Things Come From Nothing’. Ciaran’s

beautifully atmospheric backing track is perfectly complimented by Rhys’

resigned, semi-whispered vocal turn and, despite the presence of multiple loops

and samples, there is as much of an intensely human feel as on anywhere else on

the album. Following on from a track that seems to centre, somewhat mockingly,

on the explosion of household technology during the previous decade (the

intermittent ‘A Specific Ocean’ even features the ominous sound of mobile phone

interference), it is another reminder that, at least in the world of Super Furry

Animals, man and machine can co-exist in perfect harmony. The mid-section’s

strange twilight feel is rounded off with ‘The Door To This House Remains

Open’, which combines Hawaiian guitar-mimicking electronic noises with a

thudding drum and bass rhythm. Yet again, the introduction of high-pitched

backing vocals bring the song thundering along towards its climax, as many of the

track’s key hooks re-emerge and unite to form another exhilarating denouement.

The tempo does not let up with ‘The Teacher’, a track which not only sees the

band revert to a traditional rock and roll format of two guitars, drums, keyboard

and bass, but also heralds the ending of the album’s mid-section. Just as small

strokes of different colours may serve to emphasise the prevailing colour in a

painting, this mid-section serves to emphasise the overwhelming brightness of

Guerrilla, and ‘The Teacher’ certainly brings it kicking and screaming back into

the sunshine. The track begins with the band clapping along to a bouncy

drumbeat, over which Rhys appears to be screaming “goal!” over and over, before

a delirious guitar riff precipitates each instrument literally tumbling in together

and straight into the action. Screeching backing vocals, ‘bratty’ guitar reminiscent

of the theme from Rhoobarb and Custard and lyrics about wanting to come home

from school and start a band build steadily towards the album’s dizzying high

point, as the band foist childlike ‘la la la’s and piercing shrieks upon the

increasingly energetic instrumentation before, just two-and-a-half minutes in, the

whole piece is brought to a shuddering halt, with only Rhys’ fading cries of

“help!” as a brief coda. It is the sound The Monkees would have made if they

were amplified tenfold and jamming with the local asylum, and no other song has

so perfectly recreated that ‘end of school, start of the summer holidays’ feel,

which is no mean feat for a band who by then were mostly into their thirties. It is

worth mentioning the contribution of Daffyd Ieuan, whose quiet/loud drumming

dynamic and range of fills play a major part in helping the band’s sound to take

off with such impressive momentum.

Next up is ‘Fire In My Heart’, a pared down acoustic number which is as close

as the album comes to a straight-ahead love song. The effect of hearing Rhys

crooning lines such as “I ask is it sad/that I’m driving myself mad/as this fire in

my heart turns blue” when just before he had been defiantly wailing “when I get

home from school I’m gonna burn my books/and when I get home from school

I’m gonna write some hooks” (‘The Teacher’) is heartbreaking in its contrast, but

yet again the song builds gradually to a euphoric finale. Starting off with just

Rhys and his delicately-plucked acoustic guitar, Ciaran illuminates the second

verse with shimmering electronic sounds which conjure up images of the sun

rising first thing in the morning, before the third verse sees the whole band joining

in. There is a brief bridge, before the time-honoured key change chimes in with

vocal harmonies augmenting the effect. These vocal harmonies were to become

more of a prominent feature in later Super Furry Animals work, so much so that

they have developed a transcendental sound reminiscent of prime Beach Boys,

and their forthcoming album is said to feature lead vocal contributions from all

bar one of the band’s members. ‘Fire In My Heart’ is a beautifully measured

piece in its gradual layering on of instruments and, although the backing vocals on

Guerrilla were not quite as polished as they are now, they were an integral part of

the album’s climactic dynamic.

Final track ‘Keep The Cosmic Trigger Happy’ concludes matters on an

especially upbeat note, with its falsetto chorus demonstrating the impressive vocal

range that makes Rhys’ voice so versatile, suited to all of Guerrilla’s myriad

styles. Its bouncy melody is almost Abba-like in its sophistication, in stark

contrast to the moody ‘epics’ that most bands like to end albums with, but its

reflective buoyancy make it just as poignant; the moment it’s all brought to a

close, you are left grinning from ear to ear, knowing that it’s been a fun journey.

However, after a while, you will discover that rewinding the CD at the start of the

first track leads you to hidden song ‘The Citizen’s Band’, much like belatedly

stumbling upon the secret level on a computer game. With its mix of bizarre

truckers’ vernacular (“smokeys say I’m a lonely cartel”), themes of technology

(“me and you/so many ways to communicate”) and a multiple-layered sound, it

ties the whole album together perfectly and renews its vigour at a time when you

already may have listened to it five or six times.

It was often said of seminal acts that sold little, such as Pixies and The Velvet

Underground, that everyone who did hear them went on to form a band and

although major mainstream success currently eludes Super Furry Animals, they

look destined to one day enjoy this kind of status. Guerrilla was a bolt from the

blue in the context of both the prevalent ‘indie’ music of the time and the album’s

more sombre predecessor Radiator, but it came around at a time when it was

badly needed. It embraced the forthcoming millennium with an overwhelming

positivity and unparalleled creative streak, serving as a reminder that music does

not have to leave you feeling depressed in order to qualify as emotionally valid.

Its constant genre-hopping recreated the spirit of Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery

Tour-era Beatles, and imbued the record with more colour and verve than perhaps

any other record that decade; or since, for that matter. Techno/rock hybrids are

not usually known for such qualities and usually err on the side of avant garde, but

Guerrilla makes everything seem possible; it uses technology instinctively, as just

another instrument, in a way that other bands had seemingly not even considered,

and helps create something so absolutely ‘pop’ that it appears the band succeeded

in their quest. Their emerging influence on the current scene will hopefully

cement the classic status that Guerrilla richly deserves.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 07:04    Post subject: Disco Reply with quote

I think we're in agreement here! I think part of it is about not alienating people, both from the music and the "message". I will insist though that that sort of small "p" political message certainly resonated with me! The lyrics on that record I agree are kind of complex/buried. There are some themes there if you tease it out a bit, and then there's stuff like "Suck my Oil"!

Some day I'll write an essay on "Venus and Serena"!

The Man Don't Give A Fuck - really?! I don't actually know anyone else here who knows the song, but it seems pretty clear to me! Do these people think the shots of Lenin on the videoscreen at the live performances are an endorsement of totalitarianism?
"Even I know the solution: love, music, wine and revolution..." (magnetic fields)
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Tommy Tynans Lovechild

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Location: People's Republic Of BS4 (Though always PL2 4Ever)

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 19:58    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Man Don't Give A Fuck

Probably the best song of all time, like, ever. Dunno whether its better live or not, but spectacular either way. Remember Howard Marks introducing them in Cardiff and saying how their record company completely misunderstood the song/band when they printed promo t-shirts with the slogan the band don't give a fuck.

they clearly fucking did and clearly fucking do.

fuck fuck fuck. But not 57 times!
Britain... It's not that Great!
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Tommy BOO

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 02:41    Post subject: Reply with quote


After a few months "Hey Venus!" is still up there with my favourite SFA albums. Sure, it's 'easier' than all their albums since "Fuzzy Logic", but maybe that's why I like it... not all albums have to be epic masterpieces!

I think the new album was a nice change after "Love Kraft", which was also a good album but needs more attention.
Instead of really concentrating on listening to the music, you can just put on "Hey Venus!" on your CD player and enjoy the great tunes while you're washing the dishes or getting ready to go out...

"Tommy Boo has played a pivotal role in my life. I've looked up to him since I was a kid and he has inspired every note of music I have ever written. The man is a fucking genius" -BC
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 14:03    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone got any thoughts on 'Dark Days/Light Years' or is it still too soon to tell? It's certainly a much more challenging listen than Hey Venus but I'd say probably less so than Love Kraft.

I'm liking 'Inaugural Trams' and 'Helium Hearts' so far. Very Happy
"It's too beautiful to stay inside..."
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Tommy Tynans Lovechild

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Location: People's Republic Of BS4 (Though always PL2 4Ever)

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 19:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well i was gonna wait for the cd but as it was only a couple of quid more for the cd and download....

early doors:

Still don't like the opener. But there's some top tunes, I love Inaugral Trains, cardiff in the sun, best of neil diamond, pric, where do you want to go and moped eyes (though i swear that at one of the ifor bach shows they did that or something with the same opening line claiming it as a cover)

i think its kinda like RATW where the good songs are ace and the other ones (about 1/3 to half the album) are stodgy.

as ever though there's enough to make me want the next one.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 15:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

does it need repeat listens before the tunes sink in? onto track 7 and nothing has really caught me bar Inaugural Trams, which I'd already heard
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 16:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

Definitely give it repeat listens. DD/LY has kept me company on the train a lot recently and I'm slowly starting to open my ears to it after Hey Venus's warm and welcoming accessibility. I'd say Inaugural Trams, Inconvenience and Helium Hearts are probably the easiest to get into, but I'm really loving Mt, Moped Eyes and Very Best Of Neil Diamond at the moment.

"It's too beautiful to stay inside..."
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2009 17:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

a few songs are slowly worming their way into my brain

Cardiff In The Sun is one of them
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 21:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

i know it's really not the best place to see them, but super furries have just been announced as the headliner for the saturday of the ben and jery's summer sundae thing on clapham common on 25th july.

teenage fanclub, i am kloot and king creosote also there in a pretty great line-up, if you can stand the screaming kids and not particularly great sound.

tickets only £8.95 (and £3.50 postage) so much cheaper than any other super furries show i've seen confirmed for this summer - and you can probably eat your way through enough free ice cream to make back the ticket price too.
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Tommy BOO

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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 12:59    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to this forum and Spotify, I've changed my mind about "Guerrilla" during the past year - it's still not my favourite SFA album (I don't know what that would be though) but I've learned to love it! Even that mobile phone song sounds somewhat.... um.... tolerable.

I still love "Hey Venus!" though, in my opinion it's up there with the best things that the Furries have ever done. Better than the newest album for example (which isn't a bad album either)...

Anyone know what the Super Furries are upto nowadays?
"Tommy Boo has played a pivotal role in my life. I've looked up to him since I was a kid and he has inspired every note of music I have ever written. The man is a fucking genius" -BC
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