John Harris

Journalist & Author

American Interior review a Super Furry Animal heads for the frontier

Gruff Rhys traces an American journey taken by one of his relatives in a book that brims with verve and fascination

The Welsh band Super Furry Animals released their first single in 1996, when the surrounding culture was dominated by so-called Britpop. The song on its A-side was titled "Hometown Unicorn", and by way of indicating that its creators had slightly more adventurous things in mind, it mentioned Franck Fontaine, a Parisian suburbanite who claimed to have been abducted by aliens in 1979.

Over the next 14 years, the group’s subsequent work contained other interesting reference points: among them, the parents of Albert Einstein, the meteorological phenomenon El Niño, ice hockey and Valentine Strasser, who in 1992 became the world’s youngest head of state, when a military junta seized power in Sierra Leone. Super Furry Animals have been on hiatus since 2010, and remain a too often overlooked example of how to make music that brims with verve and fascination, something due in large part to the boundless curiosity of their chief creative force, Gruff Rhys. In 2008, under the auspices of a project called Neon Neon, Rhys stepped away from the group to create a concept album about the fallen automobile entrepreneur John DeLorean: one cannot imagine anything similar being created by, say, a member of Mumford & Sons.

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