Gruff Rhys - American Interior
One of Britain’s more distinctly individual singer-songwriters, Gruff Rhys returns to his solo career after a stint as one half of dancey duo Neon Neon. This time out he’s upped the ambition and is releasing American Interior not just as an album, but also as a movie, book, and an app. The multimedia project was partly written on Rhys’ 2012 Investigative Concert Tour of the US, and is based on the story of Welshman John Evans late-1700s adventure to try and find the mythical Welsh-speaking Native American tribe, The Madogwys.
Crazy concept album or not there is something magical about Rhys’ fourth solo album. The opening salvo of the melodic pleasure of ‘American Interior’ and the catchy-as-hell road trip ‘100 Unread Messages’ (“When you said that you loved me / I knew that wasn’t true / 100 unread messages / Not a single note from you”) set the bar high - and it stays there. Whimsical is often a label attached to Rhys' work, but this perhaps doesn’t give him the credit he deserves. Songs like ‘The Whether (Or Not)’ and ‘Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be) are musically complex and thought through lyrically, whilst the Casio keyboard beats of ‘The Last Conquistador’ seamlessly transform into a spaced out ballad of sorts. The Banana Splits meets 70s disco of Welsh sung ‘Allweddellau Allweddol’ and repetitive refrain of ‘Iolo’ are just plain mad, but work. In some ways it’s a collection of disparate parts, but Rhys’ singular talent somehow holds it all together. If you’re still craving more of the fantastical world of American Interior there’s still the book, movie, and app to discover.