Super Furry Animals are a band from Wales, the members coming from a number of previous bands including Ffa Coffi Pawb
and U Thant
. Whereas these bands never progressed beyond the small Welsh language music scene, for the past 7 years Super Furry Animals have become one of the most innovative and critically acclaimed bands in the UK .
Super Furry Animals are:
This line-up got together in the early 90s originally as a techno
band, but after a year or so of writing and experimentation they signed to the Cardiff
based independent label Ankst Records
. In 1995 two EPs were released, their debut release, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (In Space)
, although not bothering the charts managaed to claim the Super Furries a place in the Guinness Book of Records
. The second EP with Ankst, Moog Droog
featured a version of what would later become their first top 40
single, God! Show Me Magic
These two releases garnered some attention for the band in the UK indie press, and after one of their earliest London shows they were signed by Creation Records boss Alan McGee. Legend has it that McGee approached the band after the show to tell them how much he enjoyed the show but that the band needed to sing more songs in English to be successful. The response was 'but the songs were in English'. This was an early indication ability to appear at least one step removed from the rest of the world.
In 1996 the Britpop boom was in full flight and Super Furry Animals rode the wave, with each of their Creation singles making further headway in the charts then the next. A joint tour round the country during the Spring of that year with Scottish popsters Bis , who were polarizing opinion with their Kandy Pop single helped bring them to a large appreciative audience.
Their first album Fuzzy Logic was released in June, the cover featuring infamous Welsh cannabis smuggler Howard Marks giving an indication of the groups fondness for the weed. The bands' fondness for the bizarre and unique led them to feature a multi-coloured techno-playing tank to follow them round the UK festival circuit that summer (a tank that was later sold onto a certain Don Henley), and a string of well-received performances resulted in the groups entry into the top 20 with the re recorded Something 4 the Weekend single.
Having established themselves firmly into the pop-culture radar, helped by the recognition that a string of good bands were emerging from the Welsh principality, the year was rounded off by the release of the limited edition single The Man Don't Give a Fuck. The record for repeated use of the word 'fuck' in a piece of chart music held by Killing in the Name of was smashed, and despite the inevitable lack of radio support and the use of a Steely Dan sample, the single sold out on the day of release and nestled into the top 30 of the charts. This single would later be their set-closer throughout the early days of their career.
The next winter the band returned to the studio, and quickly produced their follow-up album Radiator. This album was a clear progression from their debut, and the obvious rise in confidence in the band led them to include one Welsh language track - Torra fy Ngwallt yn Hir. The first indication of the band's future multimedia adventures came at this period, as the video for the single Play it Cool featured the band playing as themselves in the Wales football team in the Playstation game, Actua Soccer. There was also a cheat embedded in the Actua Soccer game itself to allow you to play as the Super Furry Animals.
The band took a break after a tour taking them across the world including such unusual spots as Lithuania and Colombia before their return in 1998 with a double a-side single. Ice Hockey Hair, a song eulogising the mullet, featuring gratuitous vocoder use. The other side was Smokin' a hymn to marijuana use with the unique rhyming of 'Johan Cruyff' to 'meaning of life'. The release narrowly missed the top ten. The year was rounded out with a release of b-sides, rarities from the Ankst period and The Man Don't Give A Fuck, entitled Outspaced.
Next the Super Furries announced they would be making a pop record, and in 1999 came back with their new single Northern Lites, a gorgeous piece of music that again would just miss the top ten. It seems that the band a just a twist too far to truly connect with the record-buying public in the UK. The resultant album Guerilla was the best yet, but the shifting from genre and the multitude of ideas contained in the record, the combinations of techno like bleeps entwined with prog-rock excess, the marriage of harmonies and feedback are just too much for many tastes.
The tour to promote the album featured the use of a 'quadrophonic' sound system with speakers mounted on 4 corners of the venue, and the use of strange alien stage outfits replicating the images on the sleeve of Guerilla. In 2000 Creation Records on the brink of meltdown, SFA took the chance to go into the studio and release a record on their own Placid Casual label. The resulting album Mwng cost only £6,000 and featured only Welsh language songs. This move was partly a reaction against the English 'pop' songs on Guerilla being denied radio airtime. Mwng was a big success, becoming the highest selling Welsh language album ever, and even resulted in a motion being passed by a Welsh Labour MP in the House of Commons, praising the band.
After Creation's demise, Super Furry Animals moved to Sony and started work on their next release. Taking advantage of the larger budget offered by a major record company, the band planned a DVD to accompany the album, featuring original films made by various directors and groups approached by the band, and further remixes of the album tracks. This album Rings Around the World went into the UK charts at number 3, their highest place to date, and an extensive Furryvision world tour was undertaken to promote the record.
2003 saw the release of Phantom Power (again with a accompanying DVD) promoted by gigs at Glastonbury and T in the Park as well as numerous one-off shows around Wales, including playing Bethesda to celebrate the centenary of the end of the Great Bethesda Quarry Strike. The strike lasted from 1900 to 1903 becoming Britain's longest strike and a landmark in the history of trade unionism.