Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power

Just when you think you've got the Super Furries pinned down as a techno-rock crossover band who pilfer from the uncoolest of bands (Status Quo, ELO etc), they come back with an album that eschews the electronica weirdness of previous albums and replaces it with a sound which can only be described as Gorkies Zygotic Mynci with a budget. Following Cerys Matthews Nashville country album "Cockahoop" it seems the SFA's have gone back to a more organic sound and while Gruff's lyrical gems will always ensure they remain a unique proposition there's the feeling that something is missing throughout.

"Hello Sunshine" features the immortal line of "I'm a minger. You're a minger too. So come on minger I want to ming with you", but sadly it's the best thing about the track. One of those country tinged ballads which in the past have included "If You Don't Want Me To Destroy You", "Demons" and "Fire In My Heart". "Liberty Bell" starts off with subtle percussion and a cow bell and mentions Anglesey which is always a bonus when you used to spend your childhood summers there year upon year. "Sex War & Robots" is a downbeat melancholia tinged ballad complete with pedal steel from local Cardiff boy Catfish Thomas and this is how the album continues on "Venus & Serena" and "City Skybaby".

Much of the album is based around the duel subjects of relationship break ups and war and it takes to "The Piccolo Square" for the band to truly make an impact with lush vocal harmonies singing a series of slogans about worshipping flags and attaching yourself to common identities and rejecting outside cultures, "As brother fights brother Wrapped up in tarnished flags Banners and body bags". Ending with a drum loop and almost nursery like ambience it perfectly balances the serious nature of the lyrics with a pop aesthetic.

With very few upbeat moments "Phantom Power" is album which challenges you to stay awake. Only "Golden Retriever", "Out Of Control" and "The Undefeated" lift the album from a downbeat misery and with a band like the Super Furries it's not something we've come to expect. Lyrically Gruff is as sharp as ever and he still keeps a sense of humour while tackling difficult subjects, but when exactly did the tunes walk out the door!!!

Alex McCann

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