Of all of the English exports of the ‘90s, few irritated American music fans more than the British music press’s frenzied coronation of Next Big Thing bands. With compulsive regularity, NME, Melody Maker, Select and their siblings would breathlessly announce that a pack of cheeky white blokes had reinvented rock and roll by slightly changing the settings on their VOX amps. By decade’s end, the Britpop boom had slowed, leaving a handful of bands to carry on as the press turned their attention to Radiohead.
Released in 1996, at the peak of the boys-who-cried-guitars music press hysteria, Super Furry Animals’ Fuzzy Logic was hailed as a classic-to-be of a new psychedelic era. We know now that that era never arrived, and if Fuzzy Logic is any indication, we know why as well.
It’s not that the first full-length from this Welsh group is unlistenable or particularly bad. Rather, 21 years on, it just sounds profoundly tired. What seemed at the time to be psychedelic expansiveness sounds now like a couple of underused synthesizers. Their irreverence sounds like silliness, their punky snarl like posturing. Above all, the songs just don’t stand up; they want for hooks both topical and melodic. Compared to the best of their peers of the time—Supergrass’s I Should Coco and In It For The Money, Ash’s 1977, Pulp’s momentous Different Class—Fuzzy Logic fades.
Still, the album’s got its charms. Defining single “Something 4 the Weekend” provides three minutes of joy in which SFA’s tinkering with melody and tone works just right, and the (appropriately) fuzzy “Frisbee” has got some infectious bounce.
BMG’s impressively thorough two-disc reissue (released on Record Store Day) offers terrific insight on the album. The slew of b-sides and outtakes that fill out the first disc are pleasant enough—any one would have fit nicely on the album proper. But the second disc, containing both demos and live versions of most of the original album’s 12 tracks, invests the songs with more sincerity. The demos have a loose, scrappy, Pixies-esque joy to them, while the live tracks portray a thrilling young band attacking their songs. All show the band playing less self-consciously and giving the songs more room to breathe.
Fast forward a decade and a second wave of Britpop, led by scrappy youngsters like Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and Editors, had taken over the charts. But a handful of original era bands like the Furries’ fellow Welshmen in Manic Street Preachers remained, churning out successful albums—their eighth album Send Away The Tigers, released in 2007, and its second single “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” peaked at #2 on the U.K. charts—and playing them to stalwart crowds of aging fans.
But songwriters, like most artists, often improve with age. So, while Send Away may not have the impudent electricity of their earlier records, it declares that the Preachers still had a lot of life left in them, reinforced now by maturity. The first three songs tour listeners through the band’s priorities: the title track reintroduces the big guitars that marked their Everything Must Go heyday. “Welcome to the Dead Zone” nods to the more expansive, anodyne sounds of both 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and the 21st century pop of Coldplay or Travis. Third song and leadoff single “Your Love Alone,” features a magnetic call-and-response hook (as well as the inspired choice of The Cardigans’ Nina Persson on vocals).
As always, MSP’s not-so-secret weapon is the seemingly unstoppable voice of James Dean Bradfield. His singing—part roar, part pleading, and altogether fiery—commands every song, making even more pedestrian efforts like “Rendition” sound extraordinary. At times, that voice, paired with the huge, almost fetishized, sound of the guitars suggest a more tasteful version of the late-’80s hair bands of the Sunset Strip.
The bonus material on the Tigers’ 10-year reissue reveals, unsurprisingly, that the Preachers do their best work in studio. The demos here provide nifty x-ray views of the songs’ bones, but ultimately pale in comparison to the blast of the completed versions. The outtakes are a mixed bag, ranging from Persson’s captivating acoustic version of “Your Love Is Not Enough” and the scorching “Boxes and Lists” to the forgettable cover of Rihanna’s then-inescapable single “Umbrella.” In the end, while the extra tracks are fun, the best thing about the Send Away The Tigers reissue is that it might inspire new listeners to check out a great record that they missed the first time around.