mon 22/04/2019

Reissue CDs Weekly: Super Furry Animals | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Super Furry Animals

Reissue CDs Weekly: Super Furry Animals

Spiffy sonic upgrade of the Welsh wonders' debut album 'Fuzzy Logic'

Gruff Rhys takes an al-fresco approach to singing while recording 'Fuzzy Logic' © Rolant Dafis

In 1996, the NME ranked Super Furry Animals’ debut album Fuzzy Logic as the year’s fourth best. It sat between Orbital’s In Sides (number three) and DJ Shadow’s Entroducing. Beck’s Odelay took the top spot and Manic Street Preachers’ Everything Must Go was at two. Fuzzy Logic was on Creation Records and the Oasis-bolstered label’s only other album in the run down-was The Boo Radleys’ C’Mon Kids (15). A run through the list suggested Britpop was over (Suede’s Coming Up was in there, but they were hardly Britpop) and grunge was on the shelf (Screaming Trees made the cut though they, like Suede, prefigured the pigeonhole into which they'd been stuffed). Fragmentation was the order of the day and there’s no better illustration of this than The Olivia Tremor Control’s out-of-focus Dusk at Cubist Castle which sat at 42.

How Super Furry Animals fitted in then is made clear by a quote from main Animal Gruff Rhys in the liner notes to this new, 20th-anniversary reissue of Fuzzy Logic. “We were too idiosyncratic for mass appeal,” he says. “But our theory was if people get bombarded with stuff, they’ll accept anything.” The band had two EPs on the independent Ankst label behind them when they signed to Creation in late 1995 and began the process leading them to Wales' storied Rockfield Studio, Fuzzy Logic and the fulfilment of their mission to inundate.

Super Furry Animals Fuzzy Logic Rockfield – the name did not relate to music but was taken from the nearest village – was opened by Kingsley and Charles Ward in 1963 in converted farm buildings. Queen had recorded there and their “Bohemian Rhapsody” became one of the studio’s most successful recordings. Previous Super Furry Animals releases were recorded in a home studio on the north Wales island of Anglesey. Creation Records was backed by Sony and had the means to put their new signing into a high-end studio.

The resulting album was a declaration: a statement that this band melded the fantastic, the surreal and the musically questing. Songs mentioned guitarist Huw Bunford’s hamster Stavros, and evinced fascinations with UFOs and the symbolism of mythology. Prog-rock coloured the music, as did psychedelia, glam and The Electric Light Orchestra. Pre-punk was heavily in the mix. So were Kevin Ayers and Soft Machine. Yet it was all concise, to the point, instantly embraceable and tuneful. What could have been scattershot with such a range of influences was not. Fuzzy Logic still sounds fresh.

Which is just as well as the 12 tracks making up the album are overshadowed by the whopping 35 bonus tracks on the 2CD reissue. The album was reissued in 2005, but this new package must be the last word on the early Creation-era Super Furry Animals. The contemporaneous B-sides and non-album tracks appended to the album on Disc One offer no revelations beyond confirming that the band had material coming out of their ears.

Super Furry Animals Rockfield Studio Fuzzy LogicDisc Two includes two sets of demos made for Creation: the first from June 1995 (capturing a rockier band than on any other official release: “Frisbee” from this session was issued as a promo 12-inch); the second from October 1995. They are fascinating; showing a band which knew who they were but had not quite imposed focus. Though the recordings aren’t rough, they evince a slight AD-HD approach to the playing and songwriting which calmed down – a little – when the album was completed at Rockfield. The skeletal demo of “Fuzzy Birds” is about the song rather than how it was framed, and shows the speed at which the band subsequently moved to flesh-out their unique sound at Rockfield. The second disc is filled out with a July 1996 live show which, while full-on and imbued with joy, will be a slog for all but the most committed fan. (Pictured above left: with Gruff Rhys elsewhere, the rest of Super Furry Animals contemplate the process of recording their debut album. © Rolant Dafis)

While the demos help appreciate album’s evolution, the real surprise comes from the new remaster of Fuzzy Logic itself. At the time, it sounded a little compressed: as if sonic peaks had been tamped down. But it wasn't an issue. It was what it was, and didn’t feel compromised in any way. Now, beginnings and endings of songs have been restored and the sound is bigger, much more dynamic and punchy. It is a new experience.

There is also a new single-album vinyl edition which is welcome (originals fetch at least £70 as it was issued when CDs ruled) but a comparison between it and a first pressing was not possible as one was not supplied for review. Nonetheless, for its sound alone, the CD version of the revitalised Fuzzy Logic is an essential addition to the band’s catalogue.

Comments

I have never knowingly heard the original. Your review has prompted me to buy this edition. is the Desk planning to review the new Jim James solo album?

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