Super Furry Animals
Although they'd been around for a couple albums and numerous singles previous, I didn't really hear much of the Super Furry Animals until I picked up their album Guerrilla and it rocked my noodle with a weird slapdash combination of genres and some of the catchiest pop/rock songs I'd heard in a long time. If I would have read an instrument or even possibly a description of the album, I might have laughed it off, but after hearing the actual product I found myself singing right along with its infectious energy.
Imagine my surprise then, when I found out that the group would be recording their entire next album in Welsh. I mean, I knew that they were Welsh and thought that it was cool, but I wondered why after what was probably the biggest album of their career thusfar, they would go back and do an album in a language that a large majority of the world didn't understand. I knew it wasn't for the money, and that part had me both intrigued and reverent, and I hoped that they would continue to impress me.
After having heard Mwng, I can say that the group still does impress me, just not in the same way. It's not really a true follow-up to Guerrilla, since the songs on the release were written by lead singer Gruff Rhys over the course of time since the band got together in 1995. Not only that, but they only spent a little over a week recording the 10 songs (plus 5 songs on a bonus disc if you get the U.S. version) and not a whole lot of money.
Of course, those last two points really don't make much of a difference at all, since the album doesn't sound tossed-off at all and the production on the songs is quite nice as well. It's easy to see that the songs would have been easy to lay down in a shorter amount of time (they're much less intricate and although some tracks employ a bit of gadgetry, it's nothing like their older releases). The disc gets off to a rolicking start with the super-short "Drygioni," but it sets the stage for things to come with some distorted vocals, a stomping rhythym section, and some weird keyboard effects. Although the first half of the album is pretty darn mellow (including the somewhat cheesy-lite "Y Gwyneb Iau"), the group does show that they can write simple tracks that are still catchy as hell (case in point, the jolly "Ymaelodi A R Ymylon").
Things really get going about the halfway point, though, and the album has some of it's best songs right in a row. "Pan Ddaw'r Wawr" moves along with sort of an offset keyboard part before moving into moments of shimmering quiet while "Ysbeidiau Heulog" sounds like it could have come off any of their other albums. It has some funky vocal effects and even though it's in some language you can't understand, you'll find yourself trying really hard to sing right along with them anyway. The album closes out with a long, spacey track and it ends things nicely. If you pick up the U.S. release, there are some excellent songs to be found on the bonus disc as well (although I'm not sure why they didn't just put all the music onto one, as it would have easily fit). If you're a fan of the group, you'll definitely want to check it out, and if you're looking for something just a bit different, it will do as well. I'm sure the group is probably working on the actual follow-up to their last album, but this one is definitely no toss-off. It's basically just a labor of love for the group and if people like it, then so be it.