Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Shark Ridden Waters

Song: Shark Ridden Waters
Artist: Gruff Rhys
Album: Hotel Shampoo

While working together, my old co-worker and friend Rob tried as he could to get me into the Welsh band Super Furry Animals.  I took a listen to a couple of their albums and just couldn't get into it, and yet I knew he was trying to share with me something he cared deeply for, and I've often thought I needed to go back and give them another chance because he has excellent taste in music.  (Thus far... I haven't.)

BUT, longtime readers may recall that I had a Mercury Prize nominee/winner week some time back and through that discovered a side project by lead Furry Animal, Gruff Rhys called Neon Neon and their excellent, 80's inspired 'Stainless Style,' a concept record about the self-destructive DeLorean Motor Company founder John DeLorean.  I discovered that record several years after-the-fact, but fell in love with it, and Rhys' song craft.  The man just released a new solo album called "Hotel Shampoo," an odd little record that honestly didn't grab me the way 'Stainless Style' did, but none-the-less has been on heavy rotation for me over the last month and a half.

As I learn more about this man, it's clear he has a penchant for a concept for an album, and dives into that concept with serious, wild, psychedelic indie-pop abandon.  And 'Hotel Shampoo' is no exception.  Intended as a piano and saxophone-based lounge record, the album features that idea, but also bursts at the seems with all kinds of instrumentation and ideas... it's an odd little record that can best be described as Burt Bacharach on a psychedelic drug binge.  (And that's not a lazy description... it's spot on.)

While it doesn't have the electronic pop of 'Stainless Style,' it's not only Rhys' voice that connects the two... I hear a lot of similar songwriting tricks in the two albums, despite the complete difference in genre and tone.  It's hard to deny opener "Shark Ridden Waters," which starts with a handful of odd sound samples only to explode into a 60's inspired splash of trippy pop.  The more I've listened to it, the more I think it's kind of amazing.  It sounds classic and new all in one gulp.  The groovy "Sensations in the Dark" has to be heard to be believed, and "Christopher Columbus" marches along confidently... very go-go 'Valley of the Dolls.'

Songs like "Take a Sentence" and the odd little love ballad "If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)" really lay into the Bacharach influence, and exude a charm that takes a couple listens to feel.  This is an album that bears much fruit on repeated listens.

And with THAT being said... yes Rob, I will take another listen to them Super Furry Animals. Promise. ;)


Shark Ridden Waters

Take a Sentence

Christopher Columbus

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