Power Plants

Time is not money for Super Furry Animals

"It's somewhere we can really play around, so we do," Rhys says. "We went to a conventional studio a few times to record drums, and then when Mario Caldato did the mix, that was in a 'proper' space. But the rest of the time, pretty much, we just hang out and make sounds. And some sounds make us happy, or laugh, and some sounds make us scared, but it's all exciting. The best parts on any of our records, I think, come out of a couple of us being in our little room in Cardiff at three in the morning, just wigging out and being ecstatic in the music."

The Furries' audible joy in their music is one of its triumphant conundrums, given that the themes they so frequently address are ones usually tinged in melancholy. Phantom Power, Rhys comments, is both an album about loneliness and--especially--an album about conflict.

"I don't know how not to write about the things going on around me in the world," Rhys explains. "But I guess I write about them in a particular, personal way. Like 'Liberty Belle'--it's about a girl, but it's really pretty much about the Bush administration.

"I don't know how not to write about things going on around me in the world," says Super Furry Animals singer-guitarist Gruff Rhys. That's a good thing.
Kevin Westenberg
"I don't know how not to write about things going on around me in the world," says Super Furry Animals singer-guitarist Gruff Rhys. That's a good thing.

"Belle has these very noble ideals," he elaborates, "that result in complete and total devastation. Because she's forgotten the mistakes of the past, and so she's making them again. But, then, in a bigger way," he continues, "I guess it's also a song about the simple idea that people should respect each other as individuals, but humans everywhere are fucking that up right now. And the result is war; the result is poverty."

And yet there is--as there always is in the Furries' music--a kind of transcendental impulse in "Liberty Belle." Beauty rises from the ash of all the destruction visited on the world. In one verse, Rhys sings of birds flying out of the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, over the Jersey banks of the Hudson and out to the sea, and it's the most joyful, thoughtful elegy for the September 11 victims yet set to 2-inch tape. Never mind that it's only one element in a song obliquely chastising current American politics--or better yet, do as the Super Furry Animals do, and embrace the contradiction.

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