Phantom Power - Super Furry Animals 
Well, for the millions of you reading this, I'm sure my #11 will be something of an anticlimax after this. What a story. I feel overshadowed.
Phantom Power is a wonderful record from start to finish. For a 10-song concept album in which every song used D-A-D-D-A-D tuning - surely the worst idea for a concept album ever - to be turned into a 14-song masterpiece virtually flawless in its creation and implementation is quite something.
In a way, it represents the Furries taking many new steps. For one, it's the last time they ever really made any dent on the charts, effectively cutting off quite a lot of MOR listeners to their sound. I'm sure Gruff Rhys and his merry mentalists couldn't care less, but a fall in mainstream success often spells a change in a band's approach.
This time, the band allowed themselves to be much more technical about the album's production (reflected in its title, a reference to a tool often seen on mixing desks). They engineered the album themselves and had endless discussions about things I won't pretend to understand. Gone, it seems, were the days of making poorly-produced shoutfest B-sides just for the fun of it.
They did get to play with guns though.
Yet the band are right in calling the album "a little more human" than its predecessor Rings Around The World. There's a sentimental warmth to songs such as Sex, War & Robots, and not just because of its pedal steel guitar. "If tears could kill, I'd be a long time gone," croons Huw Bunford over a languid melody.
Yes, Huw Bunford. Bunf. It's the first time a song of the guitarist's had made a Furries studio album, but more noticeable is his vocals being used instead of Rhys'. It was the catalyst for everyone having a go on Love Kraft, with each band member bar Guto Pryce - he's shy, bless him - taking the lead at one stage. Again, a new sound, and one that works really well, on Phantom Power at least (Love Kraft's not all that).
But to my mind, though this album shows a band at their stage-sharing democratic best, it's brothers Dafydd Ieuan and Cian Ciaran's record. Daf is given a huge amount more freedom with his drumming, from the heraldic announcements of the gorgeous Father Father instrumentals to the frantic drum solo outro of Valet Parking.
Cian, meanwhile, is the man behind Slow Life, one of the greatest offerings of the Furries' career - a seven-minute semi-improvised experiment (the rest of the band just jammed over the top of his pre-prepared mix) that weaves seamlessly between techno and folk-rock then mashing the two together. What a finale.
I should probably write more about the songs themselves, but I doubt I'd do them justice. Suffice it to say the album is eclectic as the Furries ever are, but with an often gentler, more countrified sound. True, Out Of Control and Golden Retriever are steeped in '70s rock 'n' roll and I don't even know what The Undefeated is, but the general atmosphere is laid back to the point of falling over, and in a damn good way.
Lyrically, it's, uh, diverse. The band claims Phantom Power is about broken relationships and war, and I suppose that's partly true. But it doesn't do justice to the sheer number of subjects tackled, nor the intense amount of feeling they manage to generate on topics such as the Falklands War (The Piccolo Snare, an incredible track with some of the most beautiful close harmonising you'll ever hear) and the Chernobyl disaster's effect on North Wales (Bleed Forever).
Oh yeah, and a song about a dog. With Golden Retriever and outpourings from the soul about pan-European road travel and pet tortoises called Venus and Serena, it's good to see the Furries didn't lose their sense of fun with this one.
Even against the brilliance of Radiator and Rings Around The World, Phantom Power could just be the Super Furry Animals' best album. And if that's not enough, it's certainly one of the best albums released this decade. SFA OK.
(Wow, I managed to make a spectacular album really boring. Just listen to it.)
2 years ago