Music Reviews
Dark Days/Light Years

Super Furry Animals Dark Days/Light Years

(Rough Trade) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

It’s rare to find a critic who doesn’t like Super Furry Animals and it’s easy to see why. Since their first release in 1995 (the Welsh-language Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (In Space) EP), they’ve given us eight studio albums full of invention, hooks, catchy melodies, experimentation and downright weirdness. Not for nothing are they sometimes referred to as “the Welsh Beatles,” although giving SFA such a title is setting them up for a fall somewhat.

With the release of album number 9, Dark Days/Light Years, SFA look to follow the road well travelled. For most artists this would be a criticism, but since fashioning genre-hopping, innovative pop songs is SFA’s raison d’être, more of the same is by no means a bad thing.

So, it seems if you’re a fan of Super Furry Animals, Dark Days/Light Years will be right up your street and if you’re not, it’s hardly likely to win you over. Perhaps mindful of this, the album opens with Crazy Naked Girls, a six-minute psyche wig-out with two false starts, heavy prog leanings, manic guitar solos and a chorus of "Crazy, crazy naked girls/With nothing on.” To be honest, it’s unlikely to get playlisted on Radio 2 any time soon and fantastic fun as it is, it’s a peculiar choice for a first track.

Just to confuse the casual listener even further, the second offering is completely different in every way. It’s a bass-heavy glam stomp of a track entitled Mt and is the cousin of 2003 single Golden Retriever. It also has an opening verse that straddles the fine line between genius and idiocy (I wasn’t looking for a mountain/There was a mountain/It was a big fucking mountain/So I climbed the mountain).

As if to prove their acumen at as many distinct genres of pop music, SFA next throw in some swaggering funk (Moped Eyes) and follow it with some tight Krautrock featuring some spoken German (Inaugural Trams). Around this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dark Days/Light Years is simply a collection of disparate songs, rather than a cohesive album. In the age of single-track downloads and the iPod Shuffle, whether that’s a good thing or not is down to you but essentially, Dark Days/Light Years is far more than that.

Things begin to make more sense and fall into place as the album progresses and repeated listens reinforce that further. The eight-minute epic, Cardiff in the Sun, begins with guitar horribly reminiscent of The Edge at his most clichéd, but evolves into a gorgeous, shimmering, hazy dream, full of sha-la-las and warmth. White Socks/Flip Flops is elevated by beautiful harmonies and the irresistible sunshine pop of Helium Hearts is among the best songs SFA have ever recorded. Penultimate track Lliwiau Llachar is so catchy you’ll be trying to sing along despite the fact all the lyrics are in Welsh (good luck with that, by the way).

Due to awkward, clunky sequencing, Dark Days/Light Years takes longer to reveal its charms than maybe it should. Despite this, it’s still a marvellous record and evidence that despite their increasing years, Super Furry Animals are a long way from being out of ideas. Most bands would do well to create something this accomplished on their second album, let alone their ninth. Yet again, Super Furry Animals have raised the bar and shown the young upstarts how it’s done.

Comments for Dark Days/Light Years review

sweet...

God, are these guys brilliant. "Dark Days/Light Years" just reaffirms my love for this band. I want them to receive all the recognition in the world for this one. All nine records are a revelation to me.

great review!

this review is right on! the sequencing is almost as weird as the decisions to keep all of the songs in the first place. but this band is like a kid that knows he got a way with something, but knows that they'll be caught someday, but it doesn't matter that they'll be caught because they have such a cute smile they know they'll be forgiven anyway... the sequencing is the same sort of playfulness (or idiocy?) that begs such forgiveness.

...

Now THIS I can agree with you on. Although I like the album art. The album is bizarrely sequenced though, but something tells me this isn't the project they initially set out to produce since they were simultaneously working on an all-instrumental album. It has the feeling of a stopgap, but this is not a bad thing. Either way, the results are unsurprisingly excellent.

Thank you Mr Douglas

Your kind words are much appreciated. I see where you're coming from saying SFA are like a kid that knows they got away with something but the point is, I don't think they will be caught some day. It's album number 9 after all!

hotterthanjuly - glad we see eye to eye on this one! I think the official line is that the album is mostly built around riffs that have been knocking around for a good few years. Whether that makes it a stopgap as you say, I don't know. When an album's this good, I don't really think it matters.

Can't wait to listen to this

Can't wait to listen to this one, and then write a big post on the blog about SFA. My favourite album of theirs is still Mwng, which is also one of my faves of the decade, but all of them have been at least really good, some brilliant. Really looking forward, especially since it now has the NR Seal of Approval. 8-)

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