An Alcoholic's Day After
Gruff Rhys

Super Furry Animals

Canolfan Y Celfyddydau, Aberystwyth - 2nd December 2016
Having recently relocated to Harlech, it seems hugely appropriate that our first Welsh gig involves a drive down the coast to Aberystwyth Arts Centre to see Super Furry Animals taking on their first two albums. Having emerged from a five-year hiatus in 2015, this winter tour has been arranged to promote the re-release of the band's debut album Fuzzy Logic, unbelievably now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and a new best-bits compilation, Zoom! The Best of 1995–2016, which hit the shops early in November. Rather than a greatest hits show, the band have opted to play their first two albums in full, 1997's Radiator forming the second half of the evening's entertainment.

Our excitement is intense as memories come flooding back at just how much of an impact Fuzzy Logic made on our lives on its initial release. To a backdrop of Britpop posturing, this record was an injection of pure light into an increasingly muddied arena, a celebration of invention, melody, wit and occasional awkwardness that both charmed and moved. Don't get us wrong, Britpop provided some great bands and some brilliant records; it probably even created the environment in which Super Furry Animals' music could be widely heard, but by 1996 it was being overrun by corporate-sponsored laddism, dull guitar bands and the death of surprise. When we first heard SFA's 'Hometown Unicorn' we thought it had been sent by God. It lifted our souls, and the band secured a forever place in our hearts and minds. And the first album just built on that love...

Having driven up a myriad of dead ends trying to find the venue at the University, we finally manage to park up and enter the impressive Arts Centre, lined with amazing photographic displays and very affordable cafes. We've left it late to get tickets as we are juggling Aberystwyth and Llandudno (the following day), depending on how our work situation pans out. Standing tickets are long gone when we finally take the plunge, so we are left with seats at the side of the arena, though all present a fair view of the stage. It's a decent-sized venue. Rows of seats are slid back to form standing room for around five hundred (we estimate), with a futher hundred or so seats taking each end at the sides, some of which lie behind the stage. The seats in front of the stage are empty, a necessity perhaps given they are blasted with lasers all evening.

For one great aspect of Super Furry Animals is that they like to put on a show. They are not a particularly animated band, so they make up for that with a fine (and no doubt costly) stage set involving projectors, a billion tons of dry ice, fantastic lighting, numerous signs and elements out of your sci-fi dreams, including flashing panels, bits of starships and the odd cartoon creature perched on the speakers. It's a backdrop not really needed by the support band and we are happily surprised when Bo Ningen burst on to the stage. We haven't seen any announcements of support bands and of all the dates on this tour, Aberystwyth would have been the last we would have expected to see the London-based quartet turning up. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a shock when they start playing as the sound is horrible; it appears shorn of top and bottom end and emerges like a morass of indistinguishable noise, though the quality thankfully improves as the set goes on and we get to enjoy the noise merchants at their most gloriously disruptive as they close with two immense numbers, bassist/singer Taigen Kawabe working her way into the crowd as carnage blossoms all around.

It's quite a splendid foundation for the main event, and the SFA emerge suited up for a day's work at Trawsfynydd, in white protective coveralls, as the dry ice pumps and the three projectors spin letters in fruit-machine fashion until they form the word 'GOD' and the magic begins. It's always emotional to watch genius at work and as the album unfurls it is difficult not to marvel at its breadth of inventiveness and style. Creation snatched four singles off the album, two of which went top twenty, but they could have picked any one of these tracks to stand alone. The audience sings along and when the projectors spell out 'HTU' our hearts beat just a little bit faster.

Fuzzy Logic done away with and there's a short interlude before Radiator. The band use a sign to proclaim the start of the second album; it would have been much easier just to speak the words, but there's a plethora of signage on display throughout the evening, including 'A Minute For Howard' (Marks, drug smuggler, anti-hero and cover star of the first album), and 'Codwch Y Tô!" ('Raise The Roof!).

Though as touched with brilliance as the first album, Radiator is a little colder in feel, with Gruff Rhys moving to keyboards for many of the songs. Released in the enormous shadow of Be Here Now, the second outing from the Furries still became a top ten album and outshone the Oasis cocaine baffler with its sheer depth and nerve. "Spell it out, rip it up, rearrange it ..." Rhys sings on 'The International Language of Screaming' and he couldn't have described the band's work better. The stunning 'Demons' is sung in appropriate red light, the audience goes bananas to 'Hermann Loves Pauline', and 'Play It Cool' makes it (again) four singles from the album, all of which went top thirty. It's a major league record and the Furries impress major league.

As the album comes to a close, another sign proclaims 'Diolch' ('Thank You') before the band encore with their standard set closer 'The Man Don't Give a Fuck', a single that didn't appear on either album but was released in between the two. So it is allowed. It sets the whole venue jumping, not just in the standing area but everyone in the seats is up and hopping as well. Probably thirty thousands 'fucks' float through the Aberystwyth skies and the band leave the stage to keyboardist Cian Ciaran before returning in appropriate furry animal suits to wave goodbye.

"It's a long time since we played Aberystwyth," Rhys declares near the start of the gig, leaving us thinking "It's a long time since you played anywhere." Hopefully those days have now passed and one of the great bands of the era are back on the road. With any luck new music will emerge and there will be plenty more nights like this to enjoy. It has been an impressive performance, immaculately played and brilliantly conceived. It's an hour and half over the mountains home and we don't stop singing. No doubt thousands more expletives are echoing over the Welsh countryside. What a legacy for any band....

Super Furry Animals at Aberystwyth
Words and Pictures by Adam Hammond
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