REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha


Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

The Super Furry frontman releases a bumper set of goodies to coincide with the release of his second exploratory film.

american interior

Gruff Rhys - 'American Interior' - out now via Turnstile

It’s to be expected really, I suppose. Gruff Rhys, a man who has never really shied away from the odder aspects of life during his solo career (also that of previous bands Super Furry Animals and Ffa Coffi Pawb), has now released an album, book, super-sized sexy box set, an app, several EPs and probably lots of other bits and pieces in order to support his new film ‘
American Interior’; a film that celebrates the life and achievements of a Welsh explorer and possible ancestor of Rhys himself, John Evans. If any other 43-year old man had been carrying around a puppet of the aforementioned explorer and wearing a hat shaped like a wolf to promotional gatherings for the past couple of months, eyebrows may be raised. But not when it’s Gruff Rhys – he’s got form. He’s no stranger to the concept album either. As part of Neon Neon with long-time collaborator Boom Bip, he has explored the life of an Italian Communist (Giangiacomo Feltrinelli) with ‘
Praxis Makes Perfect’ and ‘
Stainless Style’ focussed on the life of John DeLorean of ‘that car out of
Back To The Future’ fame. You could indeed be forgiven for thinking that a soundtrack to a film about an explorer may be a little on the dull side; that could easily be the case, but Rhys delves into his seemingly bottomless bag of tricks and delivers 13 songs full of twists, turns and quirks. What else would you expect? Speaking of the songs (which is exactly why we’re here), let’s take a minute or forty-seven to have a listen. Anyone that has spent the last twenty years or so following Rhys’ music in whichever shape or form will feel at home immediately. The album is very reminiscent of his last solo offering ‘Hotel Shampoo’ in terms of feel and song-writing style but there are some Super Furry moments and electro squiggles to keep the older fans happy. There’s a throwaway opener in the same mould as those off his first two solo albums which is a bit of a stuttering start but then we get into the album proper with the title track and lead single, which is more than worth the wait. It’s probably the most straightforward single that the man has released in any incarnation complete with its steady beat, rising strings and accomplished guitar soloing. But what’s this? Rockabilly? It certainly sounds that way when ‘
100 Unread Messages’ kicks off with its somewhat clumsy, shuffling beat. You’re never quite sure if Rhys has got a wry smile on his face whilst singing it or if he truly meant to pen such a loveably cheeky number; either way, it’s as welcome as it is bizarre – which is to say very. What follows is basically a retrospective of everything that Rhys has ever done musically which he somehow manages to tie-in with what could have been somewhat dull subject matter; that is, I suppose, testament to the man’s genius. The album is not perfect; there are skippable tracks dotted around and there are moments where several of the songs seem to just merge into one another due to the rhythms and vocal styles not really changing that often. Despite having listened to it more than any other track on the record, I still can’t tell if ‘’
The Whether (Or Not)” is a second rate Furries B-side or one of the best things he’s written. It stumbles and it crashes about and yet it still seems to work. Other highlights that are not so challenging are the two Welsh language songs (‘
Allweddellau Allweddol’ and ‘
Iolo’, both of which would sound a little strange anywhere other than in a travel documentary) and Americana-tinged closer ‘
Tiger’s Tale’ Having not seen the film as yet, it is impossible to say how the music presented here works as a movie soundtrack but it works perfectly well as an album in its own right. It’s more of the same from Rhys; a growing confidence in his solo work has seen him move from cheap samplers and basic percussion on his debut to film score strings and layered vocals on ‘
American Interior’. It’s unlikely that this man will ever make a poor album.
Rating: 8 out of 10