If I Scream It, I Mean It

When I started this, I was just going to embed a Spotify playlist in this post, but for some reason, WordPress and Spotify don’t want to play nice together right now, so instead, I’ll just link the playlist here, and instead just list the tracks.

My idea was, simply, to offer an introduction to Super Furry Animals, one of my favorite bands and one that — as I’ve recently written — acts as an unexpected key to the way my brain works. They were active from the early 1990s through about a decade ago, although their core period was probably from the release of their first album Fuzzy Logic in 1996 through 2003’s Phantom Power; this playlist goes all the way up to their last full album, just because I’m that nerd. I’ve nonetheless tried to keep it reasonably contained — it’s just 24 songs, and runs a little over 90 minutes, because pop music.

  1. Hometown Unicorn
    2. Fuzzy Birds
    3. Something for the Weekend

All three of the above were from that debut album, Fuzzy Logic, and you can hear a band that is simultaneously unsure about who they are, and confident enough to push at the edges of the dominant Britpop sound of the moment. (“Hometown Unicorn”‘s prog-inspired guitar solo! “Fuzzy Birds” ending with a folk flourish!)

4. The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

A b-side that was excised from the single it was intended for because of rights issues — it’s based around a sample of “Showbiz Kids” by Steely Dan, who initially didn’t give clearance quickly enough, as the story goes — it subsequently became a single in its own right, and an anthem that let would be fans know exactly who the band was at that moment in time.

5. The International Language of Screaming
6. Hermann Loves Pauline
7. Demons

Three songs from Radiator from 1997. By this point, not only was the band settling into its particular musical groove — taking influences from all over the place, predominantly outside of the Britpop norm while remaining firmly pop music — but my fandom was firmly in place. I’d seen them live just ahead of the release of this album, and “Demons” was introduced by lead singer Gruff Rhys asking the crowd if they could applaud after he’d sung the first line even though we didn’t know the song. “I want to feel like Frank Sinatra singing ‘New York, New York,'” he explained. (We obliged, of course.)

8. Ice Hockey Hair

The lead track of an EP released between Radiator and the next album, Guerrilla, and a song that I remember drove my then-best friend away from his own fandom of the band, purely because a vocoder was used for the verses. It’s strange what things we will, and won’t, accept from bands sometimes.

9. Citizen’s Band
10. Night Vision
11. The Teacher
12. Fire in My Heart

All four songs from Guerrilla, which came out in 1999. It’s a weird, messy third album, as third albums tend to be — bands are struggling to prove themselves on the first, confident to varying degrees and filled with the need to find their voice on the second, and then the third is the one where they go, “Wait, do I do more of this or something different now?” Guerrilla is uneven and disunified, but there’s some great songs on there — including “Citizen’s Band,” one of my favorite SFA tracks overall, which was originally hidden as the secret bonus track you could only find if you tried to rewind from the first track on the CD. Technology!

13. Sidewalk Serfer Girl
14. (Drawing) Rings Around the World
15. It’s Not The End of the World?

2001’s Rings Around the World might be the band’s most complete, most coherent album; it came out around the time I was traveling back and forth to the US for the first few times, and I have really clear memories about listening to it a lot on my Discman — oh yes — while walking the streets of San Francisco. Both “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” were most definitely personal soundtrack songs for a long time, while “It’s Not The End of the World?” feels oddly fitting given that I was listening to this a lot in the aftermath of 9/11 and everything that possessed the world around that time.

16. Slow Life
17. Golden Retriever
18. Liberty Belle

By the time we get to 2003’s Phantom Power, things are beginning to fracture; it feels at once like the second half of Rings Around the World and somehow a lesser album, as if the band themselves are starting to get tired and in the need to do other things. That said, “Slow Life” is perhaps the song they’d been trying to make for years. The closer to the album, it might as well have acted as a final statement on something greater.

19. Zoom!
20. Lazer Beam
21. Psyclone!

I still remember how excited I was for 2005’s Love Kraft, where all three of these songs come from; I was working at the call center in San Francisco, and I had the CD in my bag waiting for me to listen for the first time on the way home. I was so disappointed that it didn’t give me the same excitement that all of the earlier SFA albums had, although I still love these three songs very, very much. One of the fun things about the recent “deluxe” reissues of those earlier albums are the unreleased and demo tracks included on them, which reveal that “Lazer Beam” had been something that had been in the works for almost a decade by the time this album came out, as an incomplete jam called “John Spex.” (Versions of it show up on the deluxe versions of both Guerilla and Rings Around the World.)

22. Suckers!
23. Neo Consumer
24. Crazy Naked Girls

And so we come to the somewhat slow decline of the band, with tracks from their last two official albums, 2007’s Hey Venus! and 2009’s Dark Days/Light Years. (“Suckers!” and “Neo Consumer” come from the former, “Crazy Naked Girls” from the latter.) Both albums, to me, sound like a band that’s going through the motions and want to be elsewhere, bereft of the playfulness that marked their best work; to be fair, by this point, they all had other bands or solo projects they were working on, so it’s very possible that they did want to be elsewhere.

The band came back for a reunion single in 2016, “Bing Bong,” which is… fine…? Otherwise, I’m happy to let them go off and follow their individual muses as they see fit. What they came up with for that decade-and-a-bit together is more than enough for me. And now you get to see if it’s enough for you, too.

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