BY JEFF LEVEN
An absolute thicket of gear onstage, video screens playing an endless loop of spiraling, colorful images, the constant rumble of waves and walls and wedges of sound turning the room into a giant reverb tank – it’s the type of stuff that makes critics want to start throwing around terms like “space rock” and make off-the-cuff comparisons to Kid A.
But if Monday night’s show at the Paradise Rock Club taught me anything, it is that there are very few genres that could even hope to contain the staggering phenomenon that is Wales’ Super Furry Animals. Swirling happily from balls-out rawk (replete with headbanging Sabbath members on the big screen) to the lushest of post-Lennon-sunny-day-Penny-Lane-British-Isles-on-a-postcard pop to dense, dense grinding electronica and back again, the Animals are wit, ambition, kitsch and abandon all rolled up into one.
In a set spanning their catalogue (with the exception of their Welsh-language release, Mwng), SFA counterpointed new songs like the chimey “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” with older whirlwinds like “The International Language of Screaming,” with the effect of knitting it all into one thick, heady tapestry.
Contrasted with the “Hey look, I’m not just rapping to myself in the shower anymore” antics of opener Cex (who did at least pull off two impromptu freestyles about college and mashed potatoes), one gets the impression that the average SFA gig, at least on this side of the ocean, might well be akin to stumbling across Bach in the corner at Jake Ivory’s.
What pains me now is that I’m going to have to buy all their albums, put my ear up to the speakers, and stare at a florescent light until all I can see is floaters to even begin to approximate the experience. Even then, it would be hard to replicate the last 10 minutes of the set, in which keyboardist/DJ/programmer Cian Ciaran created a beautiful din that sounded something like the Death Star stuck on spin cycle. And all through it, a video image of Arnold Schwarzenegger kept appearing on the screen uttering the words “best mindfuck yet.” I couldn’t agree more.