sfa_ddly_coverIn a recent Pitchfork review Animal Collective declared that it must be “weird to be in a band with good musicians”, referring to the fact that they basically view themselves as electronic collagists than a band in the strict (i.e., formally trained) sense. It is an interesting distinction because Super Furry Animals are first and foremost a band in the traditional mold, yet their new album finds them embracing an abandon and polychromaticism that will draw comparisons to Animal Collective’s stunning Merriweather Post Pavilion earlier this year. Both albums share a playfulness and freedom of approach, infusing their joyful take on psychedelia with close West Coast harmonies. Where Dark Days differs is in its insistence on grooves, particularly those accented by Krautrock and glam rock, which add a stealthy intensity to the band’s typically sun-filled universe. More an admirer than a fan of the Super Furries - my prior favourite was Phantom Power - Dark Days/Light Years was a genuine revelation for me.The recurrent theme throughout the album is chugging motorik rhythms that set a foundation for an unhurried, Technicolor expansiveness. Opener ‘Crazy Naked Girls’ - a mix of funky beats, Prince-style vocals and cock rocking, ‘this one goes to 11′ guitars - vaguely recalls The Flaming Lips ‘The W.A.N.D’. In fact, aspects of Dark Days/Light Years resemble The Lips At War With the Mystics but with a lightness of touch palpably absent on that album. However, ‘Crazy Naked Girls’ is arguably the most self-consciously wacky track on an album chock full of wigged-out pleasures. The beginning of ‘Mt’ sounds a bit like folk-electronica bores Tunng, before segueing into a lolloping glam rock groove replete with a disco string section and soulful backing vocals.Elsewhere there are nods to Bowie (from the Berlin period to Scary Monsters), particularly on the retro-futurist diptych (if I may!) ‘Moped Eyes’ and ‘Inaugural Trams’. Both retain an artful credibility despite featuring all manner of antiquated synthesizing devices (moogs, vocoders, et al.) presumably hanging around the studio after Gruff’s electropop project Neon Neon. ‘Inaugural Trams’ also recalls Kraftwerk and ELO, and features a rap in German by a chap from Franz Ferdinand that (amazingly) doesn’t ruin the song. In fact, many of Gruff Rhys’s vocals on ‘Dark Days’ are treated , giving them a new textural range and somehow allowing the band to play out of themselves a bit. Furthermore, the vocals are generally less prominent in the mix, making for a more democratic sound less pivoted on Gruff’s presence.‘Inconvenience’ is rollicking glam rock scrawled with all-manner of heady, OTT psychedelic ephemera, while ‘Cardiff In The Sun’ is lush, hazy prog. ‘The Very Best of Neil Diamond’ - probably the album’s truely singular moment as well as its silliest song title - is an inspired amalgem of bollywood mish-mashery and electro, but is underpinned by an irresistable hook. There is still space on Dark Days for SFA’s more archetypally catchy, harmonious pop, for instance on ‘Helium Hearts’, ‘Where Do You Wanna Go?’ and the breezy groove of ‘White Socks/Flip Flops’. The closer ‘Pric’, begins as Krautrock but morphs into wacked-out tribal trance replete with bird calls and 808 acid patterns. As a finale it brings to mind Animal Collective’s epic ‘Brother Sport’ and another multi-couloured, unearnest psychedelic act ‘ooioo’ (particularly the Japanese band’s superb ‘Gold and Green‘). An album for Dark Days maybe, but one of such funky, irresistable catchiness, one can’t help but see light at the end of the tunnel.84%Super Furry Animals on Myspace