Super Furry Animals Radiator

[Flydaddy; 1997]

Styles: indie pop, indie rock
Others: The Flaming Lips, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, The Boo Radleys, Supergrass

Winter is in the rearview mirror; Spring is finally here. The last remnants of snow and frigid cold have slipped behind us in favor of promising sunshine and the inviting smell of all things in bloom. While the lifeless may trod along, going between seasons without a second thought, most of us would welcome any medium that makes the seasonal transformation more joyful. Hibernation is over; it’s time to be psyched to be alive.

Without question, the best guides to help usher all of us from the black-and-white winter into the Technicolor explosion of Spring are Gruff Rhys and the Super Furry Animals. Ostensibly natives of Wales, yet quite possibly too sublime in their sonic output to be from this planet, their 1997 record, Radiator, is the perfect soundtrack to complement the inevitable good mood that hits all of us this time of year.

Beginning in serene fashion, “Furryvision” is the band’s soothing emergence from the wintry doldrums. The instrumental track continues for over a minute; just enough time to make sure everybody is up, has a chance to open the shades, and process the fact that for the first time in months, birds are singing and the morning sunlight is warm. The album, then, immediately shifts gears; “The Placid Casual” is a dizzying foray into upbeat pop-psychedelia. Unlike most songs of that nature, however, it is not the traditional stoner formula of an aimless, and somewhat boring melody coupled with acid-washed lyrics. Instead, the melody is extremely tight, and the lyrics allude to the failed leadership in Sierra Leone. This is the Furries at their best; politically aware without appearing self-important, utter sticklers for melody and harmony, all the while maintaining the inventiveness of a NASA think tank.

The record gains momentum with each track. “She’s Got Spies,” a playful satire of mid-century intelligentsia services that is also part love song, is packaged with backing vocals at the end of each chorus that could be the envy of The Beach Boys. “Hermann Loves Pauline,” an ode to puppy love between two German schoolchildren, evokes the best material put out by The Clash. The Furries slow it down right at the end for “Download,” the only overtly social statement of the album.  Joined by a haunting piano loop, the band offers their displeasure over our corporate rat-race of a world. They leave us with “Mountain People,” a Zeppelin influenced number that joyously puts our feet in the right direction: towards Summer.

This album has flown under the radar for far too long; aside from the obsessive listener of independent music and the aficionado of 90’s Brit-pop, these songs have remained largely unheard. It is an enormously difficult album to describe in words; the Super Furry Animals have a penchant for dipping into every conceivable style, mood, and topic on their albums, and Radiator is no different. So, to urge people to listen, I am compelled to offer a highly editorialized opinion: as we draw further from the 1990’s, I find the times I put on the obvious classic, OK Computer, to be fewer and farther between. By contrast, Radiator’s play count has grown. Musically, the intricately crafted songs offer new insights and sensations on every listen.  The melodies and storylines are brimming with optimism and hope, while casting a critical gaze over the deplorable elements of our society. In this very humble opinion, it is among the best, and certainly the most overlooked, albums of our generation.

1. Furryvision
2. The Placid Casual
3. The International Language of Screaming
4. Demons
5. Short Painkiller
6. She's Got Spies
7. Play It Cool
8. Hermann Loves Pauline
9. Chupacabras
10. Torra Fy Ngwallt Yn Hir
11. Bass Tuned to D.E.A.D

12. Down a Different River
13. Download
14. Mountain People

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