This another of my contributions to the central Florida publication The Independent. I’ve had such a difficult time lately finding the time and energy to write full-length record reviews (despite very different ambitions, I’ve only managed two reviews in the past three months) that I may need to employ some variation on this hit-and-run kind of take. Just over 200 words, and I really did say everything I felt obligated to say about the album.
Super Furry Animals is one of those bands that tries to do a little bit of everything and winds up doing nothing particularly well. There’s certainly an appeal to a group that doesn’t feel obligated to adhere to their “sound,” especially as some of the most venerated albums these days seem like little more than fifteen mild variations on the same basic song. But for all the monkeying around with pedal steel guitars, electronic hiccups, and quasi-metal histrionics, most of the tracks on Phantom Power are overwhelmed by honey-drenched orchestral pop meanderings that sound like a more butch Belle and Sebastian. It doesn’t help that the “political” lyrics are so fragmented and simplistic that they’re little more than a game of word association played while channel surfing through the cable news channels. To be fair, these shaky lyrics are redeemed somewhat by the raggedly soulful voice of Gruff Rhys, especially when he’s tipping over into just a hint of glam-rock cracked beauty vocalizing on “Bleed Forever.”