GRUFF RHYS

Ur­ban dystopia con­cept LP pro­duces best work of Su­per Furry man’s ca­reer.

Q (UK) - - Contents - TOM DOYLE

The lyri­cal out­look may be a lit­tle bleak, but mu­si­cally speak­ing things have never looked brighter for the Su­per Fur­ries man.

GRUFF RHYS BABELSBERG ROUGH TRADE, OUT 8 JUNE

If artists from the ’ 60s, ’ 70s and ’ 80s typ­i­cally suf­fered a creative slump come mid­dle age, the same can’t be said for those who came up in the ’ 90s: Da­mon Al­barn, Thom Yorke and the Gal­laghers are still pro­duc­ing some of their best work. Of­ten over­looked, though, is Su­per Furry An­i­mals’ front­man Gruff Rhys, pos­si­bly be­cause he’s fo­cused on a solo ca­reer whose con­cep­tual ten­den­cies cul­mi­nated with 2014’ s Amer­i­can In­te­rior, an al­bum about 18th- cen­tury Welsh ex­plorer John Evans. Fol­low-up Babelsberg is sim­i­larly high con­cept – its ti­tle spins the name of a re­gion in the Ger­man city of Pots­dam into an imag­ined place filled with the tow­er­ing hubris of lux­ury apartments. But this be­ing Rhys, a ster­ling melody is never far away. In fact, Babelsberg is ab­so­lutely stuffed with some of his finest songs to date. Its orches­tral pop pro­duc­tion is per­haps rep­re­sented most vividly on the Scott Walker-ish Drones In The City, which finds strange beauty in sin­is­ter govern­ment sur­veil­lance. Through­out we’re in sim­i­lar baroque ter­ri­tory, with band and orches­tra slow­ing down and speed­ing up in tan­dem to heighten the drama, amid mo­ments of dis­ori­en­tat­ing trip­pi­ness, such as when the dancers in The Club fall through the floor, “de­scend­ing to dif­fer­ent di­men­sions”. Babelsberg sweet­ens its some­times bleak modern world views with pop con­fec­tion – the delu­sional Fron­tier Man sounds like the ghost of Glen Camp­bell, while a sub­lime duet with ac­tress/ model Lily Cole, Self­ies In The Sun­set, de­picts a cou­ple emp­ty­grin­ning into their phones among scenes of com­ing Ar­maged­don. But even if there’s a sense of dark­ness de­scend­ing, in his best solo al­bum yet, Gruff Rhys paints with bright and up­lift­ing colours. ★★★★ Lis­ten To: Fron­tier Man | Lim­ited Edi­tion Heart | The Club

Gruff Rhys: in re­flec­tive mood.

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