As dawn breaks…

images (1)Funny bugger, I am, sometimes…

I’ve been listening to Mwng again this week, and from there, its predecessor Guerilla. And I realised I’d somehow kind of forgotten the absolutely majesty of Super Furry Animals. A great, great band. That run of albums from Guerilla, through to Phantom Power, is pretty much peerless.

Mwng

I got to thinking about last summer’s Green Man set again, and how it was a little underwhelming, and that it being so had somehow obscured that wonderful evening at the Guildhall, little more than a couple of months earlier. Listening back to the slightly sodden recording I made of the Green Man evening, it’s not even that bad a set either.

For on old befuddled gent, the images are still very clear. It had been a long day “in the field”, mud had been tramped through, drink had been taken, bands had been watched, there had been laughing, chat, general arsing around and all the other stuff that goes with festivals. The drizzle had begun to set in, and it was after midnight, I believe. The sight of a couple of young fellers leaping around in front of us, goonishly, absolutely out of their trees, added to the general feeling of things beginning to unravel a little.

But when SFA shambled on stage (I probably need to think of another Gruff-verb, to be fair), there was such an outpouring of warmth, fondness and elation, from everyone around that I remember thinking “here’s a band that people really love”.

One of the reasons I’ve not put up any of the recordings of the set is because the amount of “noise” around is pretty immense, even by festival standards. Not irritating, couldn’t give a toss about the band, here’s one for my Facebook page, sort of noise. More like people just having a banging good time, drinking lager, smoking herb and joining in with a band they’ve known and loved for many years. You can’t really complain about that.

And as the first chords of “Rings Around the World” jumped across the bobbing heads of the people around me, there was what felt like a discernible ripple of pleasure, joy, whatever you will, that swept you along with it.

As I write, I’m recalling it clearly, starting to rebuild pictures and wondering where on earth the memories have been…

Thing is, and I remember feeling this at the time, an opportunity was missed as soon as the Mwng section of the performance started. Lovely as the songs are, it definitely slowed down the force and drive of the set. You could feel people’s attention gradually wandering, the loons in front of us calmed down considerably, the rain started to get heavier. You can hear on the recording people chatting and generally losing interest. Gradually you realised you had more elbow room as people started to drift off to their tents. My own sleeping bag began to call…

Anyway, it’s funny how vague feelings that you’ve not really acknowledged or possibly realised, can lead you off on roads you didn’t realise you’d turned down. I’ve not played Mwng since…

Until this week. What a gentle, beautiful, strange record it is.

I say you please return me, will you ever return me?

IMG_1250I’ve come to realise in the course of the barrel-full of wayward posts I’ve put together over the years that I’m definitely one for over-hyping bands, records, gigs. Using “great” when “quite good” might be more accurate would be one thing I probably should work on when composing a gig review. But then, where’s the fun in that?

Having said this, there are obviously loads of “great” bands out there, I just don’t think I’ve manage to catch too many of them, live and in their pomp. This being the West Country and all. But… occasionally… as I think I’ve said before, every now and then our dear old, jaded, faded Guildhall manages to pull a truly great band. And this Tuesday, the magnificent Super Furry Animals took to the stage for the first time in six years, and they were here in Gloucester.

Wha?!?

Super Furry Animals at the Guildhall

I actually had tickets to see Dan Mangan and Blacksmith at Thekla for the evening (a very good evening by all accounts) but when the news emerged of SFA playing a warm up for their big dates to come, I did what I had to do…

The old place was full (thankfully – I do worry about these things…) and the queue for a beer was reassuringly long. Essentials duly taken care of, SFA shambled onstage at eight thirty and it all kicked off.

Dressed in lugubrious white contamination suits, they launched straight into a full-throated sequence of songs that included Rings Around the World, Do or Die, Show Me Magic and Demons It was an impressive, dynamic start: it looked like they were determined to pick up where they had left off. I’ll put it down to nerves that there wasn’t much of a connection with what was an enthusiastic audience, made up mostly of middle aged hipsters who had presumably grown up buying Guerrilla, Phantom Power and Radiator.

In fact, they barely spoke to each other either and it was hard not to draw conclusions from the stage places – Gruff Rhys on the far left of the podium, everyone else on the far right, the middle ground only taken up by drums and the occasional appearances from the two trumpet players.

It’s such a songbook they have though, that you couldn’t be worrying about that for very long. All of the first six albums were pretty heavily drawn on, there being distinct Radiator, Guerrilla and Mwng phases. (Mwng, by the way, is being re-released tomorrow). There were a good few songs I didn’t know, although on looking them up later, I don’t think any of them were actually new.

By the end of a pretty generous two hour set, everything and everyone had warmed up considerably (including one tired and emotional punter bellowing from the front “I’ve already pissed myself twice!” in a hoarse valleys accent). The band were beginning to enjoy themselves and had loosened up considerably. Yeti costumes were pulled on, Gruff donned his Power Rangers helmet and the encore stretched out to almost half an hour – you felt that without a curfew, they might have gone on longer.

There’s already a YouTube clip online – and doubtless there’ll be more:

 

The recordings are good, and include some pretty decent highlights (I could’ve chosen almost any of the 25 songs they played):

Hometown Unicorn

Do or Die

Ymaelodi ar Ymylon

God! Show Me Magic

Bad Behaviour

A great evening that I shall remember for a long time. The rest of the tour promises to be something special…

And we play the game of love, and we hope that it’s enough

Here’s a welcome bit of news to perk us all up as Winter begins to poke it’s needy little face in at the window. Erstwhile (or current if you believe the rumours) Super Furry Animals bass player, Guto Pryce has a rather lovely little side project emerging, called Gulp.

Gulp

Formed with singer Lyndsey Leven and with the help of (erstwhile / current) SFA drummer Daf, Gulp this summer released a single on ELK Records from Cardiff. And it’s a bit of a belter…

In the last few months, I’ve done some pretty extensive digging into the various back and side catalogues of most of the members of Gorky’s, but inexplicably, Gruff aside, have rather ignored the outputs of the SFA members. More fool me, I guess, because I really like this Gulp record. The main track (do people still speak about A and B sides?), “Game Love” is particularly fine – insistent but ethereal vocals, draped languidly over a gorgeous, loping bass line.

You’ll like this:

Then there’s this rather more dancy, dubby offering on the other side, called Diamonds in the Sky. Words like “cinematic” and names like “Ennio Morricone” are being bandied around, but I gues nobody likes to say that it sounds a bit like, you know, Super Furry Animals… (No problem with that…)

I’m really keen on this, and am really looking forward to the album that’s being planned for next year. They’ve done a few dates recently and are, I think, due to support Django Django through October and November in the UK and Ireland. Catch ‘em while they’re hot!

Here’s a couple of  clips of Gulp playing the Club Ifor Bach in Cardiff this summer, sorry no idea of the name of either track: