Phantom Power

Phantom Power

5.0 1
by Super Furry Animals
     
 

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These Welsh wackos have never found a sonic excess they weren't immediately able to embrace, making them -- like kindred spirits the Flaming Lips -- alternately fascinating and puzzling, but never short of captivating. Picking up where Rings Around the World left off, Phantom PowerSee more details below

Overview

These Welsh wackos have never found a sonic excess they weren't immediately able to embrace, making them -- like kindred spirits the Flaming Lips -- alternately fascinating and puzzling, but never short of captivating. Picking up where Rings Around the World left off, Phantom Power dives headlong into creamy orchestral pop tunes like the lush "Sex, War, & Robots" and then swims for choppier rock waters on tracks like the stomping glam rouser "Golden Retriever," which transliterates Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" to the canine world. Overall, the disc leans more toward the former aspect, coating the starry-eyed ballad "Hello Sunshine" with dreamscape harmonies and closing the disc on a reflective, albeit techno-touched, note with the environmental rumination "Slow Life." As ever, the Animals search far and wide for new items to gussy up their tunes -- "The Undefeated," for instance, gets goosed by a flurry of steel drums -- but ultimately, they're at their best when they lay back and let nature (or, more specifically, the organic beauty of their in-band harmonies) take its course. That vocal sweetness is the calling card of Phantom Power's most charming tunes, particularly "Venus and Serena" and the swirling "Cityscape Skybaby." Like its title indicates, there's plenty of muscle hidden beneath Phantom Power's velvety surface.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
With Rings Around the World, Super Furry Animals took a stab at a streamlined, big-budget album, complete with guest stars and cameos. It was accomplished and accomplished what it set out to do -- namely, elevate the Furries' critical standing, making them a mainstay of Mojo readers and opening some doors in American magazines, who had previously ignored the brilliant Welsh quintet. Nevertheless, it was their least-interesting set of music released to date, often sounding constrained by its polished widescreen aspirations (not to mention its similarly cleaned-up, simplified political stance and lyrics), so it comes as no little relief that SFA loosens up on the sequel to Rings, the superbly titled Phantom Power. Teaming up with producer Mario Caldato, Jr., who helmed the Beastie Boys' comeback, Check Your Head, the Furries come up with their fuzziest record yet, abandoning the Technicolor gloss of Rings for a hazy, slow-rolling collection of elastic pop songs. Caldato facilitates the return of dance beats and hints of electronica, sometimes recalling Guerrilla in its arrangements, but his biggest contribution is to give the record a bit of dirt, grounding this music in reality. This is a mixed blessing, since it means that Phantom Power never takes off the way Radiator or Mwng or even Fuzzy Logic did in its sheer exuberance. This earth-bound feeling is all the more palpable because SFA's sensibilities are still in line with the streamlined attitudes of Rings Around the World. Their different influences and ideas don't intertwine the way they used to; they exist as separate songs. These songs are frequently very good, and display many of the band's attributes, from Gruff Rhys' ethereal yet warm voice and his sweet, enveloping melodies to the group's effortless eclecticism, grounded in neo-psychedelia but encompassing much more, including a new fascination with country-rock. It's a very good listen and there's a certain appeal to the dreamy haze of the production, particularly when it's goosed along by sighing harmonies and sweet steel guitars, sounding something like a Californian Magical Mystery Tour. That, of course, is a good thing, and Phantom Power is a very good album (and, again, compared to many of SFA's peers in 2003, it is far ahead of the pack), but it does lack some of the things that made earlier Super Furry Animals so exhilarating -- the grit, the wild abandon, the absurdity, and the sheer unpredictability, where it was impossible to tell what would happen next. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of maturity, which does make one a little bit older and a little bit slower, but it's still hard not to miss. But, at least they're still making good records, unlike some bands who enter their mature phase.
Spin Magazine - Zac Crain
It's simultaneously joyous and joyless, all downloaded beats, downhearted lyrics... and down-the-hatch daring. (A)

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Product Details

Release Date:
07/22/2003
Label:
Xl Recordings
UPC:
0607618503529
catalogNumber:
85035

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Super Furry Animals   Primary Artist
Ellen Blair   Violin
Ray Carless   Saxophone
Sally Herbert   Violin
Chris Jenkins   Percussion
Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton   Trumpet
Keisha Jenkins   Percussion
Rico Rodriguez   Trombone
Marcus Holdaway   Cello
Gary Alesbrook   Trumpet
Brian G. Wright   Violin
Rachel Thomas   Background Vocals
Jonathan "Catfish" Thomas   Pedal Steel Guitar
Gill Morley   Violin
Savio Pacini   Trombone

Technical Credits

Super Furry Animals   Producer
Gorwel Owen   Engineer
Stuart Hawkes   Mastering
Tony Doogan   Engineer
Peter Fowler   Sound Effects,Illustrations
Doufous Styles   Engineer
Kurt Stern   Executive Producer
Neil McFarland   Sound Effects

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