Tag Archives: Super Furry Animals

REVIEWS // Playing It Cool (1997)

I’ve contributed sporadically to magazines over the years. It seems to come in fits and starts.

Having served as Music Editor at a sixth form college magazine in the early 90’s, I moved on to making music, films and painting for a few years instead. By the late 90’s, I came back again to writing a little when asked by a friend who worked for a University publication (even though I was no longer at Uni).

During the period as Music Editor, I found my way into plenty of gigs by artists I liked when they came to town. Sometimes, I actually wrote up the interviews that I conducted too. I managed to revive this technique for a Super Furry Animals show in Brighton in 1997 and hooked up an interview with the band. Turned up at the venue, asked who I thought would be the right person to let the band know I was there, waited for ages and no-one came. As I’d been really hoping to meet the band, I was rather disappointed that nothing came of my manoeuvres.

Still, I thought that I might as well use the opportunity to write a review of the show anyway. The review that appears below was originally in the now-defunct University Of Brighton publication Babble. I have seen Super Furry Animals countless times since this one and they remain one of my favourite live bands – often quite a spectacle to witness and usually very memorable. Check them out if you get the chance.

Playing It Cool

Super Furry Animals, Brighton Centre East Wing

Growing up in South Wales in the late 80’s and early 90’s could be quite a dull place to be if one was, to any extent, a fan of contemporary cutting edge music. It remained as one of the last outposts of spandex-trousered, poodlehaired, old style heavy metal, even after Kurt Cobain slayed the beast. House, techno and later on jungle had a very long journey there. The only hints of it were so underground that you couldn’t reach them because all the mines had been closed anyway. The Manics’ mascared manifestos of situationist gobshite caring had barely made it to ‘A’ Level. Singing in Welsh could only either get you a laugh or a play on John Peel (when nobody else at the station listened to him).

Now, after the Manics killed a legacy that limply contained Tom, Shirley, Shaky and The Alarm, and finally put Wales on the musical map, the door was at last kicked open. This means that wonders such as Super Furry Animals have been let through and allowed to flourish in all their psychedelic/punk/bubblegum/techno/folk splendour.

It’s a shame that they were playing in such a shit venue as the Brighton Centre East Wing. This carpeted conference room could only have been designed with suits around tables in mind and the band looked rather uncomfortable when first taking to the stage. It took four songs before they decided to break the ice and speak to the audience. Brighton crowds can also be notoriously ‘here we are now, entertain us’. The high teen turnout ensured that the crowd didn’t have to wait long before being surfed upon. And, unimaginable five years ago down here, people brought out the Welsh flag, wrapping themselves in it and waving it at the band.

Once things were underway, the Super Furries both thrilled and plucked at heartstrings too. The amphetamine fuzz funk of ‘Play It Cool’, the acid punk of ‘Something For The Weekend’, the poignancies of ‘Gathering Moss’ and ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’ (you can almost see it ‘when the insects fly all around you’). They’ve taken psychedelia mixed with punk but keeping the essential bubblegum elements of both, whilst driving their techno-blaring purple tank straight into Brian Wilson’s cupboard and nicking all the best harmonies.

Who knows where they’re going? They have an oddball feel to them that makes them nicheless. Their influences point them in so many different directions that they could just fall apart through a lack of seams. Then again, if you’re looking back on the late 90’s, you don’t need to look much further for a finer set of pop songs (with Gallagher having wrestled the song from the clutches of the beat) than their first two albums ‘Fuzzy Logic’ and ‘Radiator’. Gruff, the singer, left the stage while the rest of the band stayed on playing a furious trance and thrashing the two huge kettle drums that had lain obtrusive and untouched, centrestage, throughout the gig. Then Gruff returned for the encores, with the Furries bowing out on the hypnotic thrash loops of ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ ringing in the ears.

Next time Super Furry Animals play Brighton is when they support Blur at the larger Brighton Centre. May they stamp all over the place and let us all give a fuck about these furry magicians.

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Filed under 1997, Reviews