Fuzzy Welsh critters sound rejuvenated on eighth album
Super Furry Animals’ unique combination of orchestral psych-pop and cartoon imagery makes them more and more unpredictable with each album: During their nearly 20-year career, they’ve been incredibly prolific and wide-ranging, with frequent studio albums and solo projects, but they’ve rarely managed to sound spontaneous. On their past few albums—at least back to 2001’s Rings Around the World—their studio-constructed symphonies have grown increasingly leaden, moored by dense arrangements and clumsy political sermonizing. Hey Venus!, the group’s eighth album, is a bit of a surprise: These songs are their spriest and liveliest since 1997’s Radiator, with a welcome emphasis on concision and catchiness.
“Runaway,” “Neo Consumer,” and “Baby Ate My Eightball” are musical clown cars—short, sweet pop songs that hold more ideas than seems possible. In fact, the first half of Hey Venus! is the band’s most sustained barrage of hooks and video game psychedelia in years. However, the album soon descends into epic overtures like the ponderous “Battersea Odyssey” that lose some of that creative spirit. As always, the Animals’ stabs at social commentary on “Suckers”, which seems to lambaste their own audience, fall forcefully flat, their cynicism at odds with the jubilant inventiveness of their music.