Super Furry Animals were one of the first post-alternative bands, fusing together a number of disparate musical genres -- including power pop, punk rock, techno, and progressive rock -- creating a shimmering, melodic, irreverent, and willfully artsy rock & roll. As one of the leading bands of the mid-'90s Welsh movement, they were already tagged as outsiders by their tendency to sing entire songs in their native tongue, but their very approach was unique, full of both whimsy and left-wing political activism. What set them apart from their fellow Welsh bands were their infectious melodic sensibilities and their wildly irreverent attitude, which peers like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, 60 Ft. Dolls, and Catatonia lacked.
Formed in Cardiff, Wales, in 1993, Super Furry Animals were comprised of Gruff Rhys (lead vocals, guitar), Huw "Bunf" Bunford (guitar, vocals), Guto Pryce (bass), Cian Ciárán (keyboards, electronics), and Dafydd Ieuan (drums). All five members had played in bands throughout their teens prior to forming the group, most notably Rhys, who had previously played in a jangle pop band named Emily that was briefly signed to Creation, as well as a Welsh noise rock band called Ffa Coffi Pawb. Following the dissolution of Ffa Coffi Pawb, Rhys played in a trio with Pryce and Ieuan, which eventually evolved into Super Furry Animals. Initially, the group was a techno outfit, yet they quickly evolved into a neo-psychedelic and progressive pop outfit. After two years or writing and touring, the band signed with the Cardiff-based independent label Ankst and released their debut EP, Lianfairpwllgywgyllgoger Chwymdrobwlltysiliogoygoyocynygofod (In Space), which was sung entirely in Welsh. It was followed within a few months by another EP, Moog Droog, which was also sung in Welsh. Both EPs were produced by Gorwel Owen.
By the end of 1995, Super Furry Animals had gained a strong, cross-generational fan base in Wales while gathering a strong cult following in Britain, which led to a six-album record contract with Creation Records. Prior to signing with Creation, the band had decided to sing the majority of their songs in English, in order to reach a wider audience. Super Furry Animals and Owen produced the group's debut album, which was preceded by two singles in the spring of 1996 -- "Hometown Unicorn" and "God! Show Me Magic" -- which became moderate hits. Fuzzy Logic, the band's debut album, was released in the U.K. in June 1996 to uniformly excellent reviews and a place in the Top 40. Within a few months, SFA had become one of the hippest bands in British independent music, with several of the group's lyrical touchstones -- most notably the notorious Welsh dope smuggler Howard Marks, who appeared on the cover of Fuzzy Logic -- having become pop culture references. Super Furry Animals also became infamous during the summer of 1996 for attending all of the pop music festivals in a gigantic tank.
"Something 4 the Weekend" and "If You Don't Want Me to Destroy You" became hit singles in the summer and fall of 1996. The latter single was scheduled to have a B-side called "The Man Don't Give a Fuck," which was built on a sample of Steely Dan's "Showbiz Kids," but Donald Fagen refused to give the group permission to use the recording. By November, he relented and "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" was released as a limited-edition single in early December; it reached number 22 on the U.K. charts, and became the group's default set closer. Fuzzy Logic also placed in the Top Ten of many critics' year-end polls.
Super Furry Animals entered the studios in January 1997 to record their second album, Radiator, which was released in August 1997. Guerrilla followed two years later, and in mid-2000 the band resurfaced with Mwng. Cameos by John Cale and Paul McCartney were featured on the ambitious 2001 album Rings Around the World, while 2003's Phantom Power was a looser affair. The compilation Songbook: The Singles, Vol. 1 and the new album Love Kraft were both released in 2005. The group signed with the Rough Trade label in 2006 and released the addictive pop album Hey Venus! in 2007. Two years later, the group released Dark Days/Light Years and then went on hiatus. Over the next five years, indvidual members pursued solo projects, finally returning to action in 2015 to play concerts promoting the reissue of Mwng. A biography called Rise of the Super Furry Animals saw publication by the end of the year. In 2016, they played several festival dates in the U.S., along with releasing "BING BONG," an anthem for Euro 2016.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine