Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years

Pic from Flickr user 'Barry Yanowitz'

Pic from Flickr user 'Barry Yanowitz'

The phrase “return to form” can never truly apply to a Super Furry Animals album, as a large swathe of critical opinion tends to correctly find merit in everything they release. But with their ninth record Dark Days/Light Years, perhaps it is more accurate to say the band have finally found something they themselves have been looking for.

Their last record, Hey Venus! from 2007, was an attempted concept album. The songs told the story of a young women named Venus through 36 minutes of raucous power pop. Before this, 2005’s Love Kraft simmered with almost an hour of psychedelic soul. While both records are worthy releases, there is a nagging sense of imbalance when listening to them. If only their best elements could be combined and packed into one album…

Deliberate or not, this is exactly what the Super Furries have achieved on Dark Days/Light Years. The concept here seems to be a simple one: base each song around a solid, hypnotic groove. With this platform in place, the Super Furries earn the license to go off the rails lyrically and musically in trademark fashion.

As a result, there is an almost concealed consistency which anchors the variety of styles and themes on the album into place. Inaugural Trams is the purified essence of Krautrock, with befitting lyrics which sound like a press release from a particularly efficient German local government transport department: “Let us celebrate this monumental progress! We have reduced emissions by 75 per cent!” But in no way does this jar with The Very Best of Neil Diamond later in the album, a mock homage to the American artist sung in part through his own song titles.

The extended psych-jams which bookend the album offer an effective counter-point to the more structured, pop-song vibe of the songs between them. Opener Crazy Naked Girls is the sound of King Crimson kicking LCD Soundsystem off the stage and stealing their instruments, as it segues from two minutes of falsetto vocals and broken beats into a prog-rock epic. Pric may border on the self-indulgent, but rounds the album off well with its unadulterated, ten-minute groove.

Dark Days/Light Years is an infectious, upbeat album which sounds like it was made by a band having fun. Do yourself a favour: buy it and put a smile on your face.

Top three tunes:

  • The Very Best of Neil Diamond – totally unlike anything I’ve heard before
  • White Socks/Flip Flops – catchy ode to unthinkable footwear faux pas penned by Bunf
  • Cardff in the Sun – dreamy, epic album centrepiece

Dark Days/Light Years was released online with a simultaneous live internet performance on March 16, but will be available in shops on April 13.

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~ by seanbradbury on March 25, 2009.

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