❉ Something furry this way comes, as SFA take Fuzzy Logic and Radiator on the road. Cymru am byth!
God bless Oasis. Out of every evil, as Tom Baker once said, must come something good. In this case the filthy lucre pouring into Alan McGee’s pockets thanks to the world-shagging success of ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ allowed him to indulge himself with the likes of white rasta Mishka, One Lady Owner and Kevin Rowland’s strange but glorious covers album ‘My Beauty’. It’s a fine tale of self-indulgent drug-fuelled rock piggery from the last great days of a record industry high on the hog of the CD boom. The upside of all this is that it allowed him to take a chance on a bunch of genre defying mavericks straight outta Cymru.
I can still recall when I first fell in love with the Super Furries. One gently hungover Saturday summer morning the Chart Show played a video where the band spanked out a gloriously nonsensical instant garage rock classic while former lead singer Rhys Ifans, a magician and some scantily clad women capered around them. By the time I heard Demons a year later they’d pretty much established themselves as my new favourite band.
Twenty and a half years, nine albums later and a shift across the UK later I’m feeling the love again in Belfast as the band strike up God! Show Me Magic. The Limelight is a tight, sweaty venue, perfect for the Furry mix of noise and anthemic melody. They’re never shy of turbocharging their songs with a little extra muscle and tonight the foundations are shaking as they career through a song that’s a promise from the band to the audience. They amble onstage, holding up a ROUND 1 sign, that we’ll be hearing ‘Fuzzy Logic’, and, defiantly retro, which side they’re playing. No daft costumes (yet), just men hitting middle age recreating their pharmaceutically inspired youth. It should be ridiculous to hear a 46 year old man singing a paean to dropping E or meeting druggie icon and irrepressible rogue Howard Marks but somehow it’s not, probably as the band’s never had an issue with looking ridiculous or somehow finding the meaning in what sounds like absolute nonsense.
It’s a glorious first half, with no right to work as well as it does live. Something 4 the Weekend is a giddily euphoric rush, Frisbee and Bad Behaviour irresistible walls of noise. We don’t need the postmodern PROLONGED APPLAUSE! and APE SHIT! signs to know how to react. Amidst the Belfast crowd Hometown Unicorn makes me nostalgic for the delights of South Wales. I wonder what can I do along with Gruff. It’s one of those moments, but as it has to it passes once the next song kicks in: Gathering Moss, receiving what Gruff tells us is a first airing in twenty years. If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You is perfectly woozy with the crowd harmonising gloriously on the chorus, and before we know it we’re at the album’s closing trilogy. Since Marks’s death these form more of a piece than ever, now regretful yet optimistic and near perfect for the mood. And as the signs tell us that ROUND 1 is over, we’re asked to give…
A MINUTE FOR HOWARD
And what a beautiful, luminescent minute for Howard it is, as Bournemouth’s O2 Academy (a former Victorian Opera House) is bathed in the kind of lights you’d see at a Mysteron rave to the sound of Furryvision.
Intermission over, a grinning Bunf holds up the “ROUND TWO” sign, and the Furries kick into The Placid Casual. Everything is getting progressively just that little bit heavier. The Furries, always thunderous live, smelt the studio version of ‘Radiator’ into something denser, and the noise unfurls into the room. They crunch gloriously through The International Language Of Screaming and an anthemic Demons before they hit any sort of hitch.
Older readers (and avid viewers of TV Clip Shows along the lines of “Cor, I Can’t Believe They Got Away With That In The 70s/80s/90s Guv”) may remember the infamous incident where The Stone Roses tripped the volume limiter on ‘The Late Show’ and the PA conked out on them. O2 Academies have their own version of the same device rolled out to their venues, and it rears its head to bite the Furries several times tonight, perversely during the quieter bits.
As the stage falls silent during the very quiet bit of She’s Got Spies, the subsidiary Furries scuttle offstage whilst an impassive Gruff dons his red Power Ranger helmet and holds up the “PROLONGED APPLAUSE” and “APE SHIT!” signs whilst the audience do just that. Sound restored, the band lope back on and go straight into the chorus. PROLONGED APPLAUSE.
Things go reasonably to plan for the next few songs, and the Furries get through very, very loud versions of Play It Cool, Herman Loves Pauline (We have ways of making you think!), and the venue almost slips its moorings as people go nuts pogoing to Chupacabras, including an annoyingly tall man wearing a bobble hat directly in front of your correspondent.
“This one’s called Torra Fy Ngwalt Yn Hir” murmurs Gruff. “What?” shout the punters in reply. They’re a bit clearer on how to pronounce Bass Tuned to DEAD. Then the dreaded decibel fun-killing machine strikes again on Down A Different River. Out come the signs again. Gruff is pretending he can’t hear the crowd. A man at the front starts bellowing “SLOW LIFE!” over and over in the hope that the Furries will break programme. They ignore him, but he keeps going.
If our friend at the front was looking for a standard SFA set(if there’s such a thing), he’s out of luck. As Gruff softly warned earlier, “This is not a festival set.” That said, the end of the set kind of is. The thundering stop-start groove of Mountain People mutates into a dubbed out thrum, and the whole room is on its feet and moving. A few feet to my left, a man in a red tracksuit with a Honey Monster mask nonchalantly shuffles away.
Then it’s time for the finale. It needs no introduction, but the dreaded decibel machine seems to know what’s coming, and kicks in one last time, during the quiet bit. But there isn’t a known force on Planet Earth or beyond that can stop Super Furry Animals from playing The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, and, volume issues finally resolved, they pile straight back into it and the room goes nuts. Most of the band troop off in a hail of feedback, leaving Cian Ciaran alone onstage to build up sheets of scathing techno racket. They return wearing their ‘Golden Retriever‘ yeti outfits to coax even more shock and awe noise out of Man until it finally reaches critical mass. The band, victorious, wield the signs whilst grinning broadly – “PROLONGED APPLAUSE” “APE SHIT!” “THE END”
Is it a nostalgia show? No, it’s Super Furry Animals being Super Furry Animals. They might not be touring new material, but they’re just being them. Long may they continue to wreck our hearing. Going deaf has seldom been so much fun.
❉ The first half of the show was reviewed by Jon Arnold at the Limelight, Belfast; the second half by Martin Ruddock at the 02 Academy, Bournemouth.
❉ Photo credit: Charlotte ‘Funky’ Kingston.