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Super Furry Animals - Rise of the Super Furry Animals

  by Adrian Huggins

published: 12 / 4 / 2015

Super Furry Animals - Rise of the Super Furry Animals


Adrian Huggins enjoys Ric Rawlins' new biography about anarchic Welsh rockers, the Super Furry Animals

I disobeyed one of my own personal rules about reviewing prior to writing this. That rule is to not read any other reviews of whatever I am reviewing. But for some reason I did it this time and what I found first of all was an account of ‘Rise of the Super Furry Animals’, claiming it to be too short and a wasted opportunity to explore the depths of one of the most important British bands ever. Total rubbish, if you ask me. Have you met a Super Furry Animals fan? Do you really think they’d have the attention span to get through a five hundred plus pages account of this band’s twenty years plus history rather than this slimmer 220 page volume? I think not. Instead of being a dirt-digging, fact-compiling exercise Ric Rawlins has written a fantastic and thoroughly entertaining account of the Super Furry Animals’ career, starting out in Bethesda in Wales and taking in London, Colombia, Brazil and Leeds along the way. It was by all accounts a bonkers and thoroughly enjoyable journey, and Rawlins captures this enjoyment perfectly through eye witness accounts from the band members and members of their management, other artists and friends. You wouldn’t even have to be much of a fan of the band to enjoy their story, I mean who wouldn’t enjoy a story about five blokes who faced with a promotional budget and a Welsh language festival decided to buy a tank to get there. The book charts the early beginnings of the band from singer/guitarist Gruff Rhys and drummer Daf Leuan’s first meetings at a local youth club as the pair learned how to play drums to their first endeavours in a band together with Ffa Coffi Pawb. Eventually, of course, the two joined Huw Bunford, Guto Pryce and Cian Ciaran to form the full line-up, and the five have stayed together for the best part of twenty years. Rawlins paints a picture of why they managed to have such a good career, and how they’ve both sustained the quality of their output and seem likely to continue that in the not too distant future. Attention is paid throughout the book to the issue of the band’s struggle and ultimate triumph at singing in their native tongue, through the backlash they faced in their early days from the Welsh press to their success with 2000’s ‘Mwng’ which reached number 11 in the charts. The information and stories behind the recordings of the band’s EPs and LPs is juxtaposed with stories of the out and out balmy promotional campaigns that have been as much a part of the Super Furry Animals’ success and history as their pop-laced psychedelic music. These seemingly ludicrous ideas came about because the band, with their intensely active imagination and sense of mischief, signed with perfect timing to the fortunately understanding Creation Records who were at the peak of their success with Oasis having just been catapulted into super stardom. This made for a wonderful combination of big budgets and crazy requests courtesy of the Furries. The band come off as incredibly self-aware, not to the point of self-deprecating but certainly humble and probably more realistic about their place in the world than many of those around them. The admiration of the Super Furry Animals by those around them of management, friends, producers, artists etc. is impressive and deserved yet it never falls into blind nepotism. It is maybe easier to see from a slight distance the impact which they had and the significance of their ideas and ideals. SFA are a band that really live up to the idea of not taking themselves too seriously but do take what they do seriously...only they have a lot of fun while doing it. The only two criticisms I would have would be that the book is firstly – and ironically - that it is a little on the short side and also that it did seem somewhat hurried towards the end, although this is referenced by Rawlins himself. In all honesty though my gripe comes from the fact I was enjoying it so much. Like the band’s own career, ‘Rise of the Super Furry Animals’ is a hilarious, charming and inspiring trip. I was genuinely gutted when I finished it.

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