Super Furry Animals- Songbook- The Singles Vol.1 (XL)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Something For The Weekend (1996)
2. It's Not The End of the World (2002)
3. Northern Lites (1999)
4. Juxtapozed with U (2001)
5. Slow Life (2004)
6. Fire In My Heart (1999)
7. The Man Don't Give a Fuck (1996)
8. Herman Loves Pauline (1997)
9. Play It Cool (1997)
10. Ice Hockey Hair (1998)
11. Do or Die (2000)
12. Rings Around The World (2001)
13. God Show Me Magic (1996)
14. Ysbeidiau Heulog (2000)
15. Demons (1997)
16. Golden Retriever (2003)
17. International Language of Screaming (1997)
18. Hello Sunshine (2003)
19. Hometown Unicorn (1996)
20. If You Don't Want Me To Destroy You (1996)
21. Blerwytirhwng (1995)

Welsh rwckstrs The Super Furry Animals hit their high mark in 2001 with their animated concept work, Rings Around The World. Notable for being the first disc released with complete video accompaniment in 5.1 surround sound, Rings was more notable for its consistently solid and catchy songs. Arriving as a colorful smear of quirky, euphoric spaced-out trip pop tracks, the disc brought stateside attention to a band that had always done well across the pond. In a lot of ways, and everything is relative with a band like SFA, Rings focused the band’s post-alternative Sgt. Pepper meets Robyn Hitchcock sound. This is not to say that they became radio friendly, by any means. But on some level, their offbeatness became more saccessible.

Songbook, the band’s first proper compilation, features tracks from their six albums, two previously unreleased tracks and a song from their adorably titled ep, llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysilio-gogogochynygofod (in space), a title bound do wreak havoc on most web browsers. At 21 tracks, it is a generous and comprehensive compilation, reaching back to the band’s roots with Blerwytirhwng and tracks from Fuzzy Logic and Radiator, as well as touching every base through their recent Phantom Power release. For the most part, it does a nice job of hitting all of the high points without being entirely schizophrenic. Interestingly, it opens with what sounds like a re-recorded (or at least remixed) version of Something From The Weekend from Fuzzy Logic. A nice choice, as this was really their first memorable single. The McCartney-tinged and neo-psychedelic It’s Not The End Of The World from Rings Around The World follows, and is also well-placed and does a nice job showing off vocalist Gruff Rhys’ exceptional and often overlooked pipes. The band’s love of music is evident throughout Songbook, and much of it is celebratory in nature- from the ebullient horns of Northern Lites, the jangly hum of Slow Life and the proggy tempo changes of the Man Don’t Give A Fuck, it is clear that this is a group that is having as much fun as we are.

SFA have also been notable for their willingness and courage to sing tracks, and indeed entire discs, in their native Welsh. Tunes like Ysbeidiau Heulog (from Mwng) and Blerwytirhwng (from their funnylongtitled debut ep) are solid selections that represent the band’s native language releases. In fact, there’s little to distinguish them from the remainder of the band’s canon, other than not understanding a word of it, of course. It’s as if they use the language just to extend the spectrum of their eccentricity.

It has always been a combination of good songwriting and sheer unpredictability that have kept The Super Furry Animals from being simply an odd cult band. Songbook is a valuable introduction to this refreshing band, as well as an essential mixtape of what has worked so well. It does not congeal as well as the individual albums, but then again how could it?

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