Welsh group Super Furry Animals are like the Radiohead for the indie set. While their music doesn’t sound remotely the same, they do share a penchant for mixing progressive rock with electronics, and both have a rabid fan base. Where they diverge lies not only in the number of fans and amount of exposure, but also in that while Radiohead veers toward the ethereal in singing politics, SFA lean more toward psychedelic romps into that world. The Animals gain more fans and more momentum with each record and the seventh full-length, Love Kraft is no exception. The anticipated follow-up to the lauded Phantom Power is another heavyweight, acting as a mixture of Pink Floyd, Blur, Bowie, the Beatles and the Beach Boys while depicting a Muse-like end of the world. Praise upon praise has been heaped upon SFA, to the point where fans were clamoring for frontman Gruff Rhys’ Welsh-language solo album, and the release of the album by Ffa Coffi Pawb, the band two of SFA were in before SFA. The two year wait is over, and Love Kraft (a reference to the master of the macabre? Their own art? Macaroni & Cheese?) is worth every second of anticipation.
The punny lyrics “kiss me with apocalypse” start out the album on the track “Zoom.” Echoes of Gilmour-led Pink Floyd resound (forgive the pun, SFA started it) as the song could have easily fit on The Dark Side of the Moon. The eerie chorus of voices at about four minutes in takes things to a whole new level, and you wonder if the Welshmen really do have foreknowledge of the end of the world. The lyrics having to do with the Virgin Mary crying blood and ending up at ‘family planning’ are both amusing and heavy with meaning. “Atomik Lust’s” sweet Lennon-esque chorus of “Fine time to walk on wine / Heads down no stress / Find some atomik lust / Whenever more or less.” Weepy strings highlight this pretty song with hidden meanings, that is until about 2:15 in when the wailing ’70s guitars kick in for an interlude. The `la-la-la’s’ amidst the Super Furries urging us to “go, go with the flow / rock, rock the freeway” in “The Horn” are impossible to resist.
“Ohio Heat” brings one back to some of the great FM radio of the ’70s, including Little River Band and America, but with a Beta Band or Gomez twist. One of my favorite tracks from Love Kraft is the first single, “Lazer Beam,” which is ELO, the Polyphonic Spree, and the Grateful Dead all wrapped up in one rocking package. “Frequency” holds one of the most engaging choruses of the album and echoes a little Blur or Suede. “Oi Frango” continues in the Britpop vein as a spacy instrumental with Coxon-like guitars. “Psyclone!” is a sister song to Radiohead’s “Optimistic” in its imagery of dinosaurs roaming the earth. The “na-na-na’s” put it on a more radio friendly level, and the violin adds a disco feel. “Get on With the Show,” yet another quality song (this album’s full of them), has a distinctly Sgt. Pepper’s air. The trilogy of mini songs called “Cloudberries” follows then leads into closer “Cabin Fever,” another Floyd throwback, but sweeter and softer.
Love Kraft is the portrait of a band using everything in their arsenal to rock your world. It’s no wonder that they have such a following. Even though their music sounds very little alike, the Super Furry Animals are usually thrown into the same sentence as Radiohead. The similarities lie mostly in the fact that each band is full of musicians who started great and only got better at their craft with time. Each album comes with a stretching of the boundaries of what rock music can do. Each band somewhat reinvents themselves each time out, to the point where one asks, “What can they possibly do next?”
Listening to Love Kraft, I felt as I did when listening to OK Computer. I wasn’t sure how the rest of the world was going to react, but I knew I was listening to something magical and groundbreaking. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the Super Furry Animals could never top Love Kraft, but the scary thing is, I do know better. So although SFA will continue to challenge themselves and their listeners, let’s enjoy the now and listen to one of the better releases of the year.