With the demise of Oasis and the Blur reunion stalling, Super Fury Animals remain one of our few links back to indie’s mid-nineties explosion.
Since 1996 they’ve released record after record of brilliantly inventive psych rock with the support of a fiercely loyal cult following.
Gone are the days when they could freely spend their major label cash on quadraphonic sound, alien costumes and customised tanks, with singer Gruff Rhys now relying on Dylan-esque message boards inscribed with ‘applause’ and ‘whoa’ instead. But SFA are no worse off without the gimmickry.
2009’s Dark Days/Light Years set is a wonderful addition to their back catalogue and as tonight’s gig turns into something of a celebration of their supreme body of work it soon becomes apparent that the lucky crowd inside the criminally underused Nation venue is hearing a band at the peak of their powers.
Dark Days/Light Years lends itself well to the live arena: thrilling and direct, it marks a return to the pop fizz of their earlier work and is their best album since 2001’s Rings Around The World. Mountain and Inconvenience recall the glam style punkiness of old while Crazy Naked Girls prompts a funked-up wig out worthy of Parliament (“Take a risk / Slip a Disc”). Best of all though is the frankly bonkers Inaugural Trams – like Kraftwerk jamming with ELO it features a countdown in German and sees Gruff stalking the stage waving a placard proclaiming ‘75%’. An ode to the efficiency of a Teutonic transport system it could be one of their very best and shows Rhys’s diversion into eighties synths on his Neon Neon project has not been wasted.
To their credit though SFA do not merely concentrate on the new and tonight’s set list is sprinkled generously with so many songs that now sound like stone-cold classics. Demons, Golden Retriever, God! Show Me Magic and Juxtapozed With U all get exultant, sing-a-long excursions.
The latter aptly shows the (ahem) juxtaposition at the heart of SFA. One of their most beautiful melodies which resulted in a Top 20 chart placing, it’s nonetheless sung by Gruff through a massively exaggerated vocoder, akin to Stephen Hawking singing a lullaby. That breakthrough ‘hit’ was never going to happen was it? Still it hardly seems to matter and as the band grin through their heavily bearded faces it’s great to see a group so comfortable in their own skin, happy to simply be a few thousand people’s favourite band.
The now traditional expletive-strewn roar through The Man Don’t Give A Fuck provokes a polite yet heartfelt bout of thirty-something pogo-ing during the finale which is quite touching in it’s nostalgic rebelliousness. This then, it seems is business as usual in Super Furry land and for that we should all be happy. Keep playing it cool boys.