Super Furry Animals Hey Venus!

[Rough Trade; 2007]

Styles: singing animal crackers, acid-washed jeans, snap crackle pop
Others: Gruff Rhys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci

So have you heard the news? Hey Venus! is a great Super Furry Animals album, maybe the best they’ve warbled out since their 1999 opus Guerilla. It's a grand effort for not only a bunch of occasionally-costumed Welshmen, but for any band. It shines brightly against hate, discrimination, embarrassment, and depression and ushers overhead a battalion of fluffy, smiling rain clouds, poised to release their loads and wash away the sins of the world. What a joke that this album is being released at the end of August instead of May, when all the flowers bloom and we first plug in our massive rotating fans! Because Hey Venus! is summer incarnate.

Digging back to the roots is what fans will call it. Hey Venus! is heavily indebted to the psychedelic bubblegum pop of SFA's ‘96 debut, Fuzzy Logic. The tracks here are as clear and concise as the band's early efforts; they lack the pomp and majesty of more recent SFA work, but they're no worse off for it. The fact is these Welsh boys thrive under the constraints of pop songs. Over the years, they've been fooling around with the length to which they can carry the pop formula, and it's refreshing to see them fall back to the basics. This lovely clump of super-pop songs rolls by like that rolling stone that gathers no moss. We receive only riches, without a dull moment to hang our hats on. Honestly, the songs fly by too fast for us to find time to hang our hats -- at 36 minutes short, this is the tiniest full-length ever adorned with the SFA brand. This one's ever different from the overblown and overshot psychedelic epics the band has tossed off in recent years. Which is a sun-soaked positive, because, in grim reality, their albums were starting to sound like excessively vast oceans wherein, if you ever dared dive deep enough, you'd eventually brush across a few pearls. The reckless and rushed quality of these freshly pressed songs is just the tip of their charm, but a key point of departure from other recent SFA stuff.

Deceptively simple, Hey Venus keeps a strong focus that carries it across the pop spectrum, showing us all that a pop song can and cannot be. Unsurprisingly, pop can be a lot of things. For all the songs that erupt like cloudbursts, showering down some kind of pleasant acid rain, there are also songs more resembling a slow drizzle. A handful of the latter seem to have splashed directly from the sunshower that was frontman Gruff Rhys’s recent solo album Candylion. Specifically, “Let The Wolves Howl At The Moon,” “The Gift That Keeps Giving,” and “Suckers” recall Rhys's slightly folkier grasp on pop. Of course, these tunes are spruced up tremendously by the inclusion of the full Furry Animal circus, giving them the many shades of nuance that the songs on Candylion were too sparse to include. And back to those cloudbursts: The three-fisted punch in the gut of “Neo Consumer”-“Into The Night”-“Baby Ate My Eightball” is some of the sharpest rock the boys are capable of. And they’re all fucking wacky -- just check out the totally wired backing vocals on the infectious “Baby Ate My Eightball” or that trippy guitar solo halfway through “Into The Night.” These three songs are the album's obvious centerpieces, and they flash by in an instant, leaving you dazed and wondering where that welt forming on your noggin came from.

Some of Hey Venus! is just classic SFA. The rousing and pleasant “Run-Away” could have found a home anywhere in or between Fuzzy Logic and 2005’s Love Kraft. Same goes for “Show Your Hand,” the album’s first single and distant cousin of past single “Juxtaposed With U.” When all these cuts add up, we wind up with an album’s worth of pleasantries. It’s always been difficult to omit the word “pleasant” when combing across Super Furry Animals' collective brow. SFA sing pop songs, are Welsh and sunny, have awful cover artwork, and can flip their sound at the drop of a hat -- and they've been doing this for a long time. Under summer sun or winter overcast, absolutely pleasant.

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