SFA are everything alternative rock should be but so rarely is any more: earthy but smart, daft but entrancing, blissed-out while still politically engaged. Super Furries are the opposite of Britrock?nu-psychedelic artists carving new shapes into old rock formations.
If the big-budget Rings Around The World didn’t quite live up to its hype, and if the lo-fi Mwng deserved to be heard by millions more than did, Phantom Power is somewhere ‘twixt the two. For me the Furries are at their most affecting when least wacky, so the high points here include the mind-bender that is “The Piccolo Snare” and “Sex, War And Robots”, a pedal-steel-graced country cousin to Rings’ “Run! Christian Run!” Imagine The High Llamas reworking a lost George Harrison song and you’ll get the idea.
First single “Golden Retriever” is a splendid folk-glam romp, and the fuzz-metal “Out Of Control” almost transcends its own silliness. This side of Furry frontman Gruff Rhys is never going to move me like “Pan Ddaw’r Wawr”, but I’m happy to tag along for the ride. Ploughing a course between these are two orchestral interludes, both called “Father Father”, arranged by the Llamas’ ubiquitous Sean O’Hagan (the modern-day Jack Nitzsche?), plus a scattering of songs (the Beatleish “Hello Sunshine”, the dippy tropicalia of “Valet Parking”) that juggle whimsy with heartfelt humanity in typically Furry fashion.
An album of hope and humour and beauty, Phantom Power is frequently as deep and mysterious as its title intimates. Feel it for yourself.