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Friday, July 15, 2011

Super Furry Animals, "Fuzzy Logic"

Super Furry Animals
"Fuzzy Logic"
Creation (1996)

1001 Albums You Must Listen to Before You Die

The idea of being a product of your own environment is a concept that applies heavily to the rock band Super Furry Animals (except its title. Not sure where that one came from). Instrumentation, genre, lyrics; everything on this record is a reflection in the band’s home nation of Wales. Instrumentation and lyrics are actually only somewhat related to the land of Wales, and then again, genre isn’t really related to Wales at all. But the band is still a product of its location.

Genre is the most important of these. When “Fuzzy Logic” was released in 1996, bands like Oasis and Blur were thriving at the height of Britpop, the genre of pop-rock music that aimed to reinvent the British Invasion in a more ‘90s style. The distance between England and Wales was short enough for the hip sound to be heard by the Super Furry Animals. Tracks like “Something for The Weekend” and “Mario Man” sound somewhere between the more traditional fare of Oasis and the more off-the-tracks fare of Blur.

It’s tough to nail down one genre for the band however. Faster songs like “God! Show Me The Magic” and “Bad Behaviour” are distinctly pop-punk, slower tracks like “Gathering Moss” take an Incredible String Band approach to psychedelia, and the band’s origins as a techno outfit comes out in the form of electronic blips and whirs. The group’s Welsh background comes into the music during “Gathering Moss,” when the song opens with the playing of a balalaika, a Russian mandolin-type instrument (the mandolin is Welsh, and the balalaika sounds dead on).

Lyrically, there is a touch of Welsh heritage tucked in there. Heritage is probably the wrong word. Specifically, the song “Hangin’ with Howard Marks” is named after a famed Welch hash dealer (who is reported to have once controlled nearly 10% of the marijuana market). Songs like this and “Hometown Unicorn” (about a Frenchman who claimed to have been abducted by aliens in the ‘70s.) are songs with ridiculous concepts, but does that make the lyrics “nonsense” as writer Rod Stanley suggests?

Yeah, actually. The lyrics are just too goofy to be taken seriously. If the band did hope to be taken seriously, vocalist Gruff Rhys’s thick Welsh accent makes it ever more hilarious (hence more Welsh influence).

This album is a little rough around the edges for me to rank it up there. It’s a fun record to be sure, but whether it deserves a spot on the list of 1001 albums is up to you.

INTERESTING FACT: The song “Hangin’ With Howard Marks” drew attention from the man himself. The two sides became chummy and the group ended up being mentioned in his biography, “Mr. Nice.”

"Bad Behaviour"

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