Super Furry Animals
n the surface of it, everything about Love Kraft is SFA-OK. There are rockers and ballads in basically equal measure. There are fun wibbly technoid sound effects slathered liberally all over. There is a little Welsh, as well as some incomprehensible English. There are numerous forays into Northern soul and Midlands psychedelia, so there's the minor change in direction we expect from a new SFA album. God's in his Heaven, etc. So why does this album feel so listless and rote? Just to clear the air, the Super Furry Animals are one of my favorite bands. We're talking about six stone-cold classic pop albums, in a row, each one more stylistically progressive and wonderfully weird than the last. Even their theoretically "mature" album, 2003's Phantom Power, packed more beautiful moments, more sky-high harmonies, and more electro-wizardry than most bands could manage over a shelf-life. Not to mention that their live experience is still one of the most fun I've had the pleasure of attending, from the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers masks, to the hairsuits, to the krazy projected kartoons, to the massive tech-house breakdowns.
The first sign that something might be up with Love Kraft is the first single, "Lazer Beam." I don't happen to know how much radio play it's getting over in Europe or elsewhere (it's obviously not getting any in America), but anyone hearing that as the introduction to this album must be very confused. It begins with some vocodered incantation about "colonial bah-stids," then devolves into soup. Literally, there's a bunch of keys, some acoustic strumming, and a shuffling beat, and they all seem beamed in from completely different songs. They never tie it together, and there is no tune. None; not hyperbole. The worst song here was deemed single-worthy, which is either wonderfully contrary or totally asinine (considering that single-selection is predominantly a business decision, I'm leaning toward the latter). Sure, "not making sense" is kind of the SFA mien, but even their most out-there experiments make sense in context with the rest of their respective albums, or at least within their own built-in logic engines, but "Lazer Beam" just sounds like hard-drive dump of random session parts.
That's not to say it's all bad. Some of it is quite serviceable. "Zoom" kicks off with some tight, chiming cymbals intertwining with some sharp rhythm guitar, suggesting some serious, like, rocking is totally coming, which it doesn't. Instead, we get a Vanilla Fudge style white-boy soul routine, with a somewhat sluggish pace and over-long bridges. Admittedly, the chorus contains the line, "Kiss me with apoca-lips," which is pretty funny, and they put in a crescendo of strings and choral arrangements at the end, and the song itself is, you know, fine, I guess, but betrays a lack of ideas throughout. "Atomik Lust" starts quite similarly, and builds to another crescendo, only this one has some pretty hot lixx and contains the lyric "Let's get our shit together / Insane with cracked brains." Dubious lyrical choice aside, they take that perfectly good crescendo and repeat it, verbatim, at the end of the song, just drilling it into the ground. The perfectly-nice "Psyclone!" folds in Beck's recent best-of collection, Guero, and lets Gruff sing on it. There's a particularly fun bit of psych-jangle called "Oi Frango," an instrumental that builds a fantastic, sunny atmosphere, then just ends at the 2:23 mark, just when it's getting started. But honestly, how long was the SFA winning streak going to last? Even the Yankees can barely get it together these days. The fact is that Love Kraft is taken down by sludgy pacing and a paucity of ideas. Seven albums in, and they've hit their sophomore slump.
Reviewed by: Jeff Siegel
Reviewed on: 2005-08-30