Looking back, Brit-pop was just a bit rubbish wasn’t it? Few of the bands it spewed forth had top-line careers which lasted more than a handful of years, great albums were thin on the ground and just about the only band of the movement that consistently released worthwhile music throughout their career was Supergrass.
But what about Super Furry Animals? In all honesty Super Furry Animals were just too damn clever and musically inventive to be constrained by Brit-pop’s restrictive parameters and while their debut, Fuzzy Logic, certainly had a similar feel to much of what was happening in the UK music scene at the time, by the time of their second album Radiator they were simply on a different creative plain to anyone else.
It’s odd then that while their musical inventiveness is widely acknowledged, Gruff Rhys’ vocals are all too rarely commended, which is a shame really as he’s probably the best vocalist to crawl out of the murky well of Brit-pop by some considerable distance, as his relaxed croon and unique approach to enunciated pop-vocals means that he is almost always instantly recognisable and is frequently sought out for collaborations.
Hooray then for Candylion, Rhys’ second solo album, and its heartwarming mix of mellow pop, happy tunes and general good-vibes. Perhaps it was Rhys holding back his best ideas for his solo album, but as far as I’m concerned Candylion is a far superior collection of tunes than it’s near-contemporary Super Furry Animals release Love Kraft, though the fact that this did not create any obvious animosity among the band at the time can only be put down to Super Furry Animals’ cohesion as a musical unit. Or maybe they were just too stoned to argue…
The positive upshot of all this is that Candylion is crammed to bursting point full of enjoyable tunes, with the joyful title track, “The Court of King Arthur” (one of the best songs about archaeology I’ve heard), the life-affirming “Beacon in the Darkness” and the relentlessly jolly “Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru” being some of the best pop music of the last decade. Best of all though is “Skylon” an epic tale of a bomb-disposal expert saving lives at 30,000 feet and still getting the girl.
At this point in his career Rhys seems as equally comfortable as band member, solo star and serial collaborator and he remains a consistently reliable source of great music. He even branched out into film a few years back with the psychedellic western musical Separado! with the minimum of bluster and publicity and still came out of it looking good.How very un-Brit-pop.