Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2009: Number 30

A return to form? When the bar is placed as highly as SFA set it up to Rings Around The World, now four albums ago, that'd be something of a leap from where they were after their last two full lengths and have only really consistently approached since with Gruff Rhys' own Candylion album. Perhaps not uncoincidentally this is their lowest budgeted album since 2001, and perhaps as such saw them abandon the over-orchestration and over thought out nature of the vast majority of their post-Creation work and remind themselves that at heart they were and are as groove-laden and questingly offbeat as they should be, with no desire to be taken that seriously.

What that means is a thorough re-dirtying of their psychedelic heart, poor man's Beach Boys luxuriousness cast aside in favour of acid rock excursions, distortion pedal frenzies and odd glam stomps with outings into Philly soul (Helium Hearts), Parliament-gone-Haight Astbury (Crazy Naked Girls) or eight minute blissed out Beach Boys referencing sunbursts (Cardiff In The Sun). The Very Best Of Neil Diamond betrays an Eastern influence in its percussion and swirling synths, rehouses Reaganite quote "trust, but verify" in its chorus and threatens in its middle eight to break out into something heavier as a bait and switch; Inaugural Trams marries shimmering, almost junior shoegazing guitars, motorik beat, synths firing off around the beat and a lyric promoting a new ecologically sound public transportation system, complete with Franz Ferdinand's Nick McCarthy adding a German spoken word break. It still doesn't sound like any other band, but at least they're reapproaching the sound of themselves at full confidence and learning to enjoy the process of a band booking studio time with which to work out just what they're capable of and what from their they can warp into their own collective headspaces. And crucially: no ballads.



The full list


Alan.. said...

Love Kraft and Hey Venus are better than this. SFA ballads own.

DD/LY is still awesome tho

thommo said...

In my mind i feel like Hey Venus is superior out of their post-Songbook output, but this was still a pretty good album after all. i think the main problem is that they seem to have chosen to promote this album with the songs Mt - one of the worst they've ever written i think, dirgey and without the benefit of a Gruff lead vocal - and Inaugral Trams, which sounds like a Neon Neon offcut (a good offcut, but still). There's a lot of moments nearer the end of the album that are incredible.