[CD Review] Super Furry Animals

Veteran purveyors of cheeky pastoral weirdness of the rare Welsh variety, Super Furry Animals return with their eighth LP to sing of consumers, suckers and remembering the bank-account details of a lost love. Opening track “The Gateway Song” plays off the pun by telling us, “It will lead to the harder stuff,” and it does.

There's some shimmering, quasi-glam rock going on in the first few tracks, which may surprise longtime fans seeking the epic sweep of SFA's recent work, but things settle into experimental mode again soon enough. “Neo Consumer” is the disc's strongest cut; it beefs up to sound like T. Rex, or a cruising version of old Flaming Lips, as it almost literally sparkles through its chorus with electronic accoutrements spazzing around the chanted refrain. One wishes the song rocked harder, but that's what live shows are for.

For all the wry lyrics and expansive arrangements (strings are done by Sean O'Hagan of the High Lamas, and you can feel his Stereolab-esque lounging throughout), the vibe of Hey Venus! never fulfills its considerable potential. That's partly because the production doesn't seem to let it. Despite that drawback, this is still a typical record from an atypical band. As with much of SFA's catalog, even when you're almost cringing and wondering who gave Randy Newman the acid, there's a charm to all of that weirdness that can be as likable as it is fascinating.

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