BLOW ME FAR AWAY

This, rather surprisingly, is the biggest chart success ever enjoyed by Super Furry Animals:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Northern Lites

It reached #11 in the summer of 1999. Now please, don’t get me wrong as I love the song. It was just that I was sure somewhere along the line they must have enjoyed at least one Top 10 hit and that it would have come via a single that was helped along by a decent promo video*; indeed I would probably have bet a fair bit of money that Golden Retriever was the biggest ever hit but it stalled at #13.

There were two high quality b-sides too, one of which made the Robster’s SFA ICA entirely of b-sides back in June 2015.

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Rabid Dog
mp3 : Super Furry Animals – This, That And The Other

They offer up great examples of the pop and electronica sides of the band. One could easily pass for Teenage Fanclub and the other reminds me of some of the early stuff from later years by Gorillaz……

JC

* if you really want to look at what I reckon is one of the worst promo videos of all time, then just click here.

 

SUMMER NIGHTS (TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE)

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With apologies for those of you dropping in expecting to hear a loving critique of the Travolta/Newton-John duet that spent 183 weeks at #1 and prevented many a post-punk/new wave act reaching the pinnacle.

Summer Nights is the name given to an annual ten-day festival of gigs in Glasgow, with the venue being the quaint Kelvingrove Bandstand, originally constructed in 1924 and then totally refurbished and brought back into use in 2014 after a quarter of century of serious neglect. The concept is sound in that a well-known singer or artist gets to headline their own outdoor gig, coming on just as the sun goes down and the audience can begin to think about removing their sunglasses. The reality, certainly in 2016, was somewhat different.

The weather for the duration was dreadful. It rained a lot and a cold wind blew through the trees that surround this most picturesque of locations just a couple of miles from the city centre. Indeed, the wind was so strong that one gig had to be postponed and rescheduled due to fears that the audience were in danger from flying debris or that the bank of speakers conveying the sound would come crashing down.

The seating at the venue is entirely made up of concrete or wooden benches, every one of which is open to the elements. The venue is pretty and its natural shape and setting make for a decent sound….but it’s not the most comfortable of places. Oh and the beer and drinks are stupidly overpriced too….as indeed are the tickets which are £30-£40 depending on the headline act. It’s a lot to fork out for what, due to curfew issues in a built-up area, will be a 90-minute show with the minimum of lights due to the small size of the stage and a universal sound system whether you’re a smooth yet bland crooner or one of the usually loudest most kick-ass bands to come from these parts .

And yet…..my two appearances at 2016 Summer Nights turned out to be among the best gigs of the year thus far.

The cost of the tickets, combined with uncertainty of the weather, always means that I’ll restrict myself to one visit per year, deciding which of the acts is most attractive. In 2014 it was Teenage Fanclub and last year it was Roddy Frame. This time round I plumped for Super Furry Animals over other options such as Idlewild, Van Morrison, Lloyd Cole, Primal Scream and Will Young. The reasoning being that despite having long loved SFA I had never managed to catch them live in person, watching only on my TV screen as they played some sort of festival or other over the years.

The rain poured down all day but somehow it went off in the evening about an hour before the band took to the stage from where they delivered a ridiculously entertaining and energetic set tinged with the sort of silly humour for which they are famed. I don’t have everything they have ever released but still managed to recognise more than two-thirds of the songs with almost all my favourites receiving an airing:-

Slow Life
(Drawing) Rings Around the World
Do or Die
Ice Hockey Hair
Hello Sunshine
Pan Ddaw’r Wawr
Run! Christian, Run!
Hometown Unicorn
Zoom!
Juxtapozed With U
Bing Bong
The International Language of Screaming
Golden Retriever
Receptacle for the Respectable
Mountain People
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

The latter was a 12-minute tour de force. Not quite up there with this epic 22:30 live version, recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo and released as a limited edition CD single in 2007:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (live)

If I was to slightly whinge about it, then it would be that it was all over too quickly and they didn’t play quite enough songs from Fuzzy Logic…..but I came away feeling very happy about my decision to go with them than any of the others.

The following day, a dreadful storm hit Glasgow, It was widely forecast and indeed had led to the Lloyd Cole gig being cancelled even before the SFA one had taken place. The upshot of all this was that a friend of a friend could no longer use their ticket as they were otherwise engaged the three nights later when it was rescheduled. I was happy to be the late substitute, especially as this was the first ever time I had been at a gig with the friend who had offered the ticket.

It was actually a two-headed monster as it was opened by Justin Currie & The Pallbearers.  The main man, despite not having enjoyed much chart success since his halcyon Del Amitri days, remains a popular draw in his home city. He’s still a thin and handsome chap, but I’m sorry to say too much of his set, which combined band and solo material, came across on the listless side.  One very notable exception being this…the track with which he closed the set and which was the subject of this great guest contribution on this blog back in September 2013:-

mp3 : Justin Currie – No, Surrender

I should say that things weren’t helped by the fact that it was pouring with rain and it was freezing, so much so that I was wearing a long raincoat and a woollen hat, both of which tend to come out of the clothes cupboard in November….not at a time when it should be more akin to t-shirts and shorts.

Lloyd Cole was being backed by The Leopards, a sort of Glasgow supergroup who are often seen playing alongside Vic Godard on his regular forays north of the border. They are the perfect foil for Lloyd nowadays, capable of doing justice to both the jingly-jangly stuff from the Commotions days as well as the harder and edgier stuff from the solo years. This must have been about the 20th time I’d seen Lloyd on stage and he’s never let me down. This was no exception thanks to a show that surprised and delighted, sticking solely to songs from the Commotions era and the first four of his solo albums, all of which are hugely underrated and under-appreciated.

Rattlesnakes
Jennifer She Said
So You’d Like To Save The World
Weeping Wine
No Blue Skies
Everyone’s Complaining
Ice Cream Girl
Downtown
Sweetheart
Brand New Friend
2cv
Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
Like Lovers Do
Perfect Skin
My Bag
Lost Weekend
Forest Fire
Morning Is Broken

It was a magical night, but one in which we all felt old when Lloyd, for the acoustic 1-2 of chevaux/heartbroken, was joined on stage by his now 23-year old son William. I think all the blokes in the audience took a look at William and yearned for the days when we were that thin and had that fine a head of hair. Gawd only knows what the women were thinking…..

Too many highlights to mention. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. Just a pity that I had to go to work the next day as it was the sort of night where you wanted to stay out for hours on end, making the most of the natural high the gig had provided. I’m far too old and sensible and with too many work responsibilities just now to contemplate a hangover. But I found that I couldn’t sleep when I got in, and so amused myself with watching the baseball live from Toronto (five hours behind us) where the Blue Jays wrapped up a perfect evening with a win. Lights went out at 3.15 am and alarm went off four hours later. Can’t really recommend it.

Oh and it turned out my friend also had real trouble sleeping after the gig. It was her first time ever seeing Lloyd Cole but she’s determined it won’t be her last. Seemingly while I was watching the baseball, she was playing his songs and having a wee dance round her living room. As I said, the sort of night where you really didn’t want the music to ever stop.

I’ve no doubt the organisers of Summer Nights are already thinking ahead to 2017 and I’ll do my usual of picking out one of the gigs and getting myself along. But it’ll be hard pushed to better those of this year….even if the sun does the unexpected and beats down on us from on high.

Cheers Mr Cole; and big thanks to the boys in the band, especially Mick Slaven for his amazing lead guitar work all night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Downtown

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #18 : SUPER FURRY ANIMALS

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Here’s another guest contribution from The Robster whose musical memories and opinions can be enjoyed on a regular basis over at Is This The Life? I’m quite taken, not only by his contribution, but by the fact he’s designed a cracking album cover to go with it……

JC’s excellent Imaginary Compilations series is one of the best ideas for a blog item I’ve come across.

Following my Nick Cave contribution I got to thinking about numerous other compilations I could put together using the same rules – 10 songs over two sides of a vinyl LP that sound like it could be a properly coherent album. I don’t want to be greedy and take over this series with my stuff but my offer of a second piece has been kindly accepted. This time, I’ve decided to tackle the work of one of my faves, a band I had the immense pleasure of seeing recently – Super Furry Animals.

However, to put a different slant on it, I’ve chosen to do a b-sides comp. SFA are one of those bands who have made some cracking b-sides over the years, which made this task very difficult indeed. I’ve had to leave off some wonderful tunes, but what I’m left with is something I think works really well. The title is also the title of one of the tracks on my original long list that didn’t make the final cut. But it’s a great title so it stuck. I’ve compiled it into one of my podcast formats – a single file containing all songs and a short gap between the two ‘sides’. Pick it up at the bottom of the post. Here goes:

DEATH BY MELODY: An Imaginary B-Sides Compilation
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS

SIDE ONE

1. Tradewinds :  b-side of Juxtaposed With U (2001)

Starting off with a song that could (should) soundtrack your summer. A cool funky reggae sound with a hazy psychedelic bent. It was the b-side of what was at the time my least favourite Furries single. While the a-side has grown on me over time, I was always a fan of Tradewinds.

2. Don’t Be A Fool, Billy b-side of Hometown Unicorn (1996)

And this one has long been one of my all-time fave SFA songs. Quite why they buried it on the b-side of such an early single is beyond me. Not only should it have been on the debut album, it really ought to have been a single in its own right. It did appear on the 1998 compilation ‘Out-Spaced’, but even then it was tucked away in the middle of the record, so easily overlooked.

3. (Nid) Hon Yw’r Gan Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Iaith : b-side of If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You (1996)

Trans.: This Is (Not) The Song That Is Going To Save The Language.

A typically lovely melody with an acoustic lilt, but offset with the buzzy guitar and slightly off-kilter key changes.

4. Happiness Is A Worn Pun :  b-side of Juxtaposed With U (2001)

Bowie circa Aladdin Sane could have written this. He’d have probably left out the Sasquatch though. Bit too strange for Dave, I reckon. Both b-sides of Juxtaposed With U are still better than the lead track.

5. This, That And The Other : b-side of Northern Lites (1999)

Another lazy, laid-back summer song, perhaps one for the evening this one. Sometimes it’s not the tune that makes the song, it’s everything else and the mood it creates. This is a great example of a song’s ambience taking centre stage while the melody drifts along in a low-key manner.

SIDE TWO

1. Charge : b-side of Ysbeidiau Heulog (2000)

The one where SFA sound like Man… Or Astroman? on steroids. Really rather rare, this one; Charge appeared on the b-side of the limited edition vinyl-only Ysbeidiau Heulog, the only single taken from the Welsh language album ‘Mwng’. It isn’t even included in this year’s deluxe reissue of said album. Shame – it’s a rip-roaring start to side-two.

2. Arnofio/Glo In The Dark : b-side of Something 4 The Weekend (1996)

This one picked itself really. It’s a favourite of the band who are actually playing it in their current live set. Of course, it meant nowt to half the people at the Cardiff show I attended last month, but to the otherwise initiated it was a treat.

3. Edam Anchorman : b-side of Rings Around The World (2001)

One of my fave SFA singles had this little monkey hiding almost unnoticed on its flip. It reminds of so many other things that have come out much more recently, but as is the norm for the Furries, they seemed to be ahead of their time back in 2001. One of the biggest, most anthemic choruses they’ve done.

4. These Bones : b-side of Run-Away (2007)

An unashamed pop song that will lurk around your head for weeks, keeping you grinning like a fool. The one track here not sung by Gruff Rhys. Not sure who is singing here, but my guess it’s guitarist Huw Bunford.

5. The Roman Road : b-side of It’s Not The End Of The World (2002)

A little bit of Americana to finish things off and another delightful tune. It’s a nice contrast to its brooding A-side and remains one of the band’s maturest moments. I mean that in a good way – a cracking song.

Hidden bonus track: Cryndod Yn Dy Lais : b-side of Play It Cool (1997)

I know this isn’t in keeping with the true spirit of JC’s original 10-track vinyl LP concept, but think of it as, I don’t know, a limited edition bonus 7″. Or something. Either way, I couldn’t resist putting this final little gem on here. It’s a tender, heartfelt ballad that I think starts off sounding like Shangri-La by the Kinks. It rounds things off really nicely. The title, by the way, translates as Tremor In Your Voice.

Link to the podcast is here

The Robster

JC adds…..

I’ve a few SFA singles in the collection and I knew five of the tracks selected by The Robster but what he’s done here is pull together what could be a cracking LP if released in that format.  Here’s a taster for it with the opening track on side one which is, as he says, a song that should soundtrack your summer.

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Tradewinds

Enjoy.