“I think our general policy is to just try these things out, if we have an idea,” explains Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, slowly, laughing through his this Welsh accent. “We err on the side of being reckless. Some things are going to work well. Others are going to be mistakes. We’d rather make mistakes than be predictable.” There was the Yeti costumes and the Power Rangers helmet, and oh, the glow-in-the-dark tank. And, of course we’d be remiss were we to omit the big blue techno “peace” tank the band used to pilot from festival to festival.
Over the years, the Super Furry Animals has built much of its reputation on such self-proclaimed recklessness. Fortunately, however, the band’s critical and financial successes over the past decade and a half has hinged on more than just, say, shoving 50 instances of the word “fuck” into a less-than-five minute song. When it’s not featuring Paul McCartney on carrot and celery sticks, the band is releasing some consistently amazing music—OK, 2005’s Love Kraft was just sort of alright, but the band has more than made up for a mediocre misfire with subsequent mind-blowing platters.
The release of Dark Days/Light Years in April marks, among other things a shift away from the manner of shenanigans that have put the band on the radar of those who care less about such trivialities as amazingly awesome music. At least according to Rhys, the Super Furry frontman. “We used to put on quite an elaborate multimedia show. In the past few years we’ve just been focusing on playing. When we’re making an album, we’ve got lots of different kinds of songs and moods. We haven’t been as focused on creating the visual aspect. We’ve just been quite content to play the music.”
The change, Rhys explains, stems out of a sense of musical immediacy—the sort of immediacy, apparently, that can’t by appeased by cruising down the block in repurposed war machines. “We were making albums that had videos for every songs. They were great to make, but they were huge undertakings. It would be at least a year of work to get everything together. These days we’d rather just take two or three weeks and just make a whole album in a continuous way and just go out and play it. At the moment we’re in that kind of a restless mood.”
The Super Furry Animals is, it seems, making records for and of the moment. Like Dark Days/Light Years, an album with the sort of title that just begs to be unpacked. There’s the simple definition: “We recorded it in January, when the days were especially short. They’re dark. I think that’s definitely where our heads were, at the time.” And the more abstract one: “there was lots of doom lingering in the media. Obviously there’s always that shit going up, but the ‘light years’ is sort of looking back. Maybe we’ll look back on it as some kind of a golden era. Maybe it will be seen as light years when we look back at it.”
And then there’s the third dark horse contender, stripped from the third track, “Mope Eyes,” which lend the album its name. “Dark days,” Rhys sings on the track, “are light years away.” It’s the unique brand of glee that the band has long delivered with all the subtlety of a big blue tank. “I think generally we like to put people in a collective high,” Rhys tells me, “offer these people a sense of euphoria, rather than dread.” No Yeti suit required.
>Super Furry Animals
Sept. 11, Highline Ballroom, 431 W. 16th St. (betw. 9th & 10th Aves.), 212-414-5994; 7, $25. Also, Sept. 13 at All Tomorrow’s Parties.