- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Super Furry Animals
Dark Days/Light Years
Rough Trade Us

A wild, giddy eclecticism runs through the ninth studio album from the Welsh art rockers of Super Furry Animals.

The mix of infectious hooks, polyglot musical influences and layered instrumentation manages to amuse, charm and seduce all at once. It’s the first album I’ve heard in a while that feels as if it has an inevitable progression from song to song, gathering shape and momentum as it moves from the opening track to the deep cuts, a rarity in the age of the shuffle.

Super Furry Animals (SFA to rock writers loath to blow their word count on band names) hails from Cardiff, Wales. The group was among the first bands to synthesize krautrock, psychedelic and acid rock into a self-consciously artful mix that still works on the dance floor. Sixteen years into its run, SFA is still generating music that surprises with incongruous blends of familiar styles.

“Dark Days/Light Years” tends toward the mellow, accessible side for the band. The track “Moped Eyes” opens with a simple three-part rock beat that Charlie Watts made famous, mixed with a fierce growl of a bass line and funk piano licks. The song is, in part, a battering assault on the Euro hipster scooter set, with the stinging chorus, “I can see through your lies/ ‘Cause you got moped eyes.”

Intellectual pretensions come in for a slagging in the easy-rocking “White Socks/Flip Flops.” It opens with the kind of tight acid rock hooks that would be at home on a Beck record and mixes with a simple Moog keyboard line that would be at home in a Daft Punk sound collage.

“Inaugural Trams” marks the nadir of silliness, mixing a grim krautrock melody with lyrics that could be translated from a North Korean ribbon-cutting ceremony. The band sings, “It’s the first day of the integrated transport hub/Let us celebrate this monumental progress.” The song is divided with comic brutalism by a German-language rap by Nick McCarthy of the Brit-pop band Franz Ferdinand.

“The Very Best of Neil Diamond” begins with a blast of souk jazz played on what sounds like an electrified oud. It’s a gorgeous, angry, alluring tune that alternates sonorous lyrical passages with buzzing cello riffs. Like every other track on “Dark Days/Light Years,” it sounds best when played at very high volumes.

Elsewhere, “Cardiff in the Sun” is an eight-minute track that unfolds with a mix of synthesized electronic bells, bird calls, howls and looping beats that, if nothing else, serves as a reminder that SFA has ambitions to create sonic landscapes that go beyond the confines of the dance club.

It’s a fortuitous time for the Welsh quintet to be releasing an album in America. Another art-rock band, Animal Collective, released “Merriweather Post Pavilion” in January to critical acclaim and big sales.

Perhaps some of the indie electronica mojo that helped Animal Collective crack Billboard’s Top 20 will rub off on SFA.

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