Phantom Power

Super Furry Animals

Beggars XI Recording, 2003

REVIEW BY: David Welsh

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/2003

The Super Furry Animals. Whether you love them or loathe them, you have at least heard of them. This bunch have been proving to the world for the better part of a decade that Tom Jones was an accident, and that Welsh music has a lot to offer. Summer 2003 saw the release of their latest and greatest creation -- Phantom Power.

Upon release, Phantom Power was greeted with love and superlatives. We would expect nothing less of a band that brought to us such songs as the fantastic "Juxtaposed Wit U" and the ever-memorable "The Man Don't Give A Fuck." Indeed, we would expect nothing less of an album that is their most coherent to date, whilst maintaining the Furries' tendencies to experiment with their attitude and delivery.

Phantom Power opens with "Hello Sunshine," which, to be honest, is in the kind of mellow, swooning manner that the Furries have been tweaking and perfecting for years. Lead singer Gruff's voice is as bittersweet as ever, draping deep, brown tones over a bright and colourful musical backdrop. With "Hello Sunshine" still fresh in our ears, the album moves on to "Liberty Belle." As such, the track is typical of the album as a whole -- the lyrics may play with anti-American imagery ("You know we're diggin' to hell / Drowning in our oil wells") but the music remains defiantly upbeat, serving to bring us a provoking and, most importantly, infectiously likeable song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As with albums from their ludicrously underrated back-catalogue, Phantom Power jumps from style to style. This time, however, we the listener make the jump very comfortably with the Furries, whereas in the past we may have felt inclined to watch them jump but keep our feet firmly planted. Phantom Power retains a subtle coherency whilst covering approaches ranging from post-punk ("Out Of Control") to electronica ("Slow Life"), from sing-along rock (fantastic first single "Golden Retriever") to melancholy anthems ("Bleed Forever"). Gruff demonstrates his mastery of a variety of singing styles, and his lyrics dwell from anti-American (or anti-Bush) commentaries to pearls of wisdom from curious advisors ("Venus & Serena").

It's no exaggeration to claim that the Super Furry Animals are perhaps the most credible band around at the minute -- they manage to deliver profound and memorable music without falling into the trap of taking themselves too seriously, and their sound is both rich and simple. Set-opener "Slow Life," which features as the last track on Phantom Power, is the sound of the band finding their feet so perfectly: Indulging in a computer-generated intro and breaking into rock and orchestral arrangements respectively. The band on their album have said that they finally found out how to intergrate technology without alienating their own sound (a criticism often levelled at previous album Rings Around The World), and, moreover, that they set out to draw a horse and eventually drew a horse, having drawn cows and other such creatures in attempts of old.

Phantom Power is the kind of fresh-but-mature sound that could only be brought to you by a band that have been there and come back again in a musical sense. It is frankly a tremendous tour de force of Super Furriness. If only all bands could achieve such a pinnacle.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2003 David Welsh and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Beggars XI Recording, and is used for informational purposes only.