Super Furry Animals 

Phantom Power

For nearly a decade, the inventive Welsh quintet Super Furry Animals has been chomping on prog and psychedelia while gleefully undermining those genres with elements of electronica, ragged folk-pop, and indie-rock dissonance. This is a band that's written a track around studio guest Sir Paul McCartney munching on carrots, broken into the UK charts with a song, "The Man Don't Give a Fuck," that repeated the word "fuck" 52 times, and introduced themselves to the world in 1995 with an EP entitled Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod(inspace).

Such musical theater of the absurd makes SFA the perfect group to tackle heavy themes like war, terrorism, and disease, right? As it turns out, absolutely. The Furries' irresistible sixth album, Phantom Power, uplifts such grim topics through the combo's characteristically jovial spirit and stylistic abandon.

"Piccolo Snare," for example, imagines gruesome battlefield casualties even while buoyed by heavenly harmonies and an appealing space-folk groove. And then there's "Bleed Forever," the quintet's sweet, pedal-steel-infused ditty about radiation poisoning. With his gently inviting tenor, frontman Gruff Rhys manages to temper the scathing indictment of American foreign policy in "Liberty Belle" by offering his sympathies for us regular folk: "The birds still sing their melodies/Songs of love and food and trees/So little do they know/Yet their days are numbered so."

There are a few purely light moments as well, but the dominant message here is that despite these dark days, there's still hope for us all. In the underdog ode "The Undefeated," Rhys sings, "Every animal has its day/We will chase the phantoms away" amidst punchy horns, steel drums, and happy pub chants. Phantom Power makes it difficult to think otherwise.

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