Super Furry Animals – Sub29, Cardiff

The pages of history are littered with catastrophic decisions, one only has to think back to 1632, when King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden refused to wear any steel body armour at the Battle of Lutzen, announcing “The Lord God is my armour!” He was killed in battle that day. Or, more recently, Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union, a nation ten times the size of his own empire, in the bitter cold of a Russian winter, a whim which left over 4 million Germans dead and the war lost. These are, however, mere trifles. No, not even Newcastle United’s decision to appoint Alan Shearer, a man with no managerial experience whatsoever, to save them from relegation could compete with the Super Furry Animals’ decision to arrive on stage and play the whole of their, quite frankly, mediocre new album from start to finish. For a band that reached the heady heights of pop genius with Ice Hockey Hair this is akin to watching your High School sweetheart making cheap porn with Jimmy Saville in order to maintain her crack habit.

Suspicion started to creep in after just two numbers. Surely, we thought, after suffering the sub Stooges rifferama of Crazy Naked Girls and the lazy Glitteresque stomp of Mt they can’t be playing the whole album as a festival warm-up? Alas, they could. The augurs hadn’t been good, passing the merchandising stall I couldn’t help notice that they were selling signed albums for £25, Holy excessive mark-ups Batman! Although I’m not sure if you got the ink free in that transaction. To be fair, the bouncy Euro-pop of Inaugural Trams briefly lifts the tedium but the venue is largely as flat as a pancake. You may have, uh, noticed that we are, uh, playing the whole album in order Gruff finally announces to deathly silence. On we go, there’s no turning back now, although some do clearly start to filter towards the exits. The venue doesn’t help matters in having a lighting rig set-up for a disco with the lights aimed at the audience from behind the band; we are left blinded and, in the main, unable to view the performers in anything but silhouette, an utterly perplexing arrangement.

The album finally hauls itself over the finish line like a urine splattered Paula Radcliffe and, at last, the band head into more familiar territory. Slow life is well received and, by the time the intro to Rings… strikes up the crowd are finally coming to life. It is all too little too late though and they even manage to desecrate Juxtaposed With U with an OTT vocoder treatment that just irritates. To be fair, I had a good run with this band, 13 years of gigs and only latterly have they become more of a chore than a thrill. I think this is the time to part though, I don’t want to be there when the end comes.

Steven Burnett

Updated: May 28, 2009

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