Super Furry Animals
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Friday, January 25
From their preschoolish name to their goofy aesthetic (“pet sounds” in every possible meaning/iteration of the phrase) to the giant-ass Mighty Morphin Power Rangers helmet frontman Gruff Rhys dons during particularly poignant moments, the Super Furry Animals have a distinct SpongeBob SquarePants/Pee-wee’s Playhouse sort of vibe: instant cartoonish appeal, relentless whimsy, questionable design sense. (If you know one thing about their new record, Hey Venus!, it’s that the cover art is truly appalling.) “Oogi! Oogi! Oogi!” some robust dude behind me keeps shouting, and I’m not certain if that’s a request or just a valid guttural reaction. Full disclosure: My cat is (sort of) named after the lead guitarist.
They are the Welsh Beach Boys, is the simplest way to put it. Venus has some lovely, bouncy moments (“The Gift That Keeps Giving” especially), but mostly at SFA shows I just sit around waiting to hear something from 2001’s splendid psychedelic odyssey Rings Around the World, and am eventually rewarded with the mighty helium-disco anthem “Juxtaposed With U” (played too slow, but still effective), as well as “Receptacle for the Respectable,” with its bewildering death-metal coda. (Leading this evening to actual wanton guitar-smashing, which seems out of character, but only slightly.) The rest is Pleasant Enough. Stylistically their nets are cast wide but not terribly deep, though there’s a hard, bitter edge to these surrealist TMBG character sketches—the nefarious heroine of “She’s Got Spies” cries while watching the 6 o’clock news, and that was back in 1997.
Evidently these guys have constructed an elaborate Internet request line that will determine their set lists—when they show up back here in February I recommend “Run! Christian, Run!” (not about Mike Huckabee) or “Venus and Serena” (not about Martina Hingis) or, if you want to make them feel better about Venus, “Baby Ate My Eightball” (not about Martina Hingis). No complaint of course if you cast your ballot for “The Man Don’t Give a Fuck”—with apologies to De La Soul, the best Steely Dan sample in pop-music history—but I’m pretty sure that one’s guaranteed.
Super Furry Animals play Bowery Ballroom February 24-25