The Citizens Band
THERE'S GRUFF, LEADER OF SUPER Furry Animals, burning the 2 a.m. oil, up to his Necronomicon in esoterica, catching up with cable TV: A Nicaraguan woman has been transported 50 miles up the coast via El Niño's good offices. A flesh-eating winged demon-goat is on the move. Televised alien-implant-removal surgery has yielded a material unidentifiable to university scientists. Bigfoot, Yeti, Sumatran mountain-apemen sightings are being tabulated on the Discovery Channel. Meanwhile, says Gruff, an Internet rumor has it that an egg placed between two active cell phones will microwave after 20 minutes. What's more, and Monsterist artist Pete Fowler -- who created the six-limbed, one-eyed, pipe-smoking, 150-button, jelly-phone-wielding God of Communications that inhabits the cover of the Super Furry Animals' third album, Guerrilla (Flydaddy) -- has just invented the Sentient Self-Mixing Turntable Deck.
"Really?" says Fowler, chuckling at news of his latest alleged achievement. "You've got to be careful with Gruff. He'll just run off on his own."
That's the Super Furrys; as they said on their second album, Radiator, "We have ways of making you think." They are the Mountain People from isolated northern Wales: "We live together under fantasy oak trees/in the dark we make sparks so unique." They've recently released one of the year's most intriguing, inviting albums, a set of tunes that finds the always adventuresome Furrys even further afield, attempting Kinks-style supermelodic fuzzed-guitar pop-tastiness, Herb Alperttinged tropical steel-drum grooves and digitalia -- all with equal facility and flair. Think the Beta Band, maybe, only with more pride in their work and much, much better tunes and lyrics, or the Olivia Tremor Control, only with a superior editing sense and minus the lo-fi fetishism.
But the Furrys are already moving on, a low-key Gruff explains from a studio in Cardiff where the five-piece Furrys are recording a new Welsh-language record, one of three (!) SFA albums currently in progress.
"Everyone's full of ideas at the moment, and it's a holiday, so we thought we'd record an al-bumb," the thickly accented Gruff says slowly, from the group's studio in Wales, explaining both the group's work ethic and the meaning of Guerrilla's sing-along closer, "Keep the Cosmic Trigger Happy." "We just record when we need to. Once in a while -- rarely, rarely -- in your life, when you're off your head in a club and madly in love or something like that, you believe for a microsecond that you've found what the trigger was that caused the Big Bang, that created the cosmos. When you feel that euphoric, you should try and capture the moment in song, you know? But by the morning, you've always forgotten exactly what the cosmic trigger was. It's fairly rare that we feel that euphoric, so when we do, it's worth capturing, you know . . ."
WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE MOUNTAINS of northern Wales, inspiration comes from different places than usual: nature (the aurora borealis), the Weather Channel, other like-minded bands (the criminally unheard Gorkys Zygotic Mynci), et cetera. You take solace in the one-to-one communication of sympathetic spirits that modern technology affords. "So many ways to communicate," the Super Furrys sing on Guerrilla's hidden track, which nostalgically celebrates the coded-language-heavy, advert-free world of CB radio. Life in even the distant reaches of the First World has become a battle of the bands: the broadband mass-marketed, omnipresent brandery of Bill Gates, Coca-Cola, General Motors and celebrity product endorsements (Fatboy Slim, anyone?) vs. the narrow currents of resistance, of weirdly globalized localism, of new subcultural communities that exist without tactility. "We're living in a world of quicksand," Gruff sings in "Turning Tide."
You can hide on the citizens band. And you can engage in some inspired direct action, like the Furrys did a few years back:
"There's some kind of bylaw in London which lets you drive tanks between the hours of 7 and 9 in the morning on a particular day," Gruff reminisces, getting kinda misty-voiced. "We drove a tank to BBC Radio headquarters. They hadn't been playing our records. I must stress, it was a peaceful tank. We shot bananas."
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