This is a bit of an oddity– I warned you earlier that
I had a lot of non-English stuff. Well, the subject of this
profile is written entirely in Welsh, which is not a language
instinctively connected with rock & roll. More than just the
language, Wales itself doesn’t seem to be a place that lends itself
to breeding the attitude and aggression so necessary for the cool
rock star image.
how many Welsh recording artistes can you recall? You’re sitting
there thinking of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones aren’t you? Real saddos will be thinking
of The Alarm or Gene Loves Jezebel at this point. The war-cry “Bustin’
straight outta Newport!” just doesn’t have that gangsta ring to it
which might see it taken up by disaffected youth as a cry for the
now generation, although to be fair Goldie Lookin’ Chain are going
to give it a go.
has produced its fair share of genuine rockers – the Manic Street
Preachers’ Ritchie Edwards famously slashed the slogan ‘4 real’ into
his arm with a razor in response to a journalist’s teasing. Cerys
Matthews gave up the day job as lead singer of Catatonia to wear
Tommy Gear full time.
She also became the South Wales yard-of-ale title holder
until Charlotte Church turned eighteen and really showed how good
girls could turn bad. Kelly Jones drove an Arthur Daley-vintage
Jaguar into a lake in the video for I’m just looking before
famously firing fellow band member Stuart Cable for the crime of
having a bubble perm (Stuart retreated back into the valleys to
chair his public access chat show ‘Cable TV’).
these are however famous for their Welsh-language efforts. While
there may be many three chord heroes in the valleys, the only ones
to impinge on the greater consciousness are Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
and the Super Furry Animals.
Rhys (pronounced ‘Griff Reese’) is the lead singer of Super Furry
Animals. Alan McGee signed them to Creation Records after he saw
them gigging in the Camden Monarch in 1995, requesting only that
they perform henceforth in English not Welsh. The band maintain that they
were singing in English at the time. They did release a
Welsh-language album Mwng in 2000. A CD in a magazine
containing a track from that album -Ymaelodi Â'r Ymylon – was my introduction to the
band and it sounded heavenly.
For some strange reason,
their English-language output never appealed to me in the same
Anyways, lead singer Gruff Rhys used
to head off periodically to North Wales to visit colleague Gorwel
Owens for a few pints and in 2003 he laid down a number of
Welsh-language numbers he had been carrying around in his head for a
while. The result was
his 2004 solo album Yr Atal Genhedlaeth
(the stuttering generation) which was released on the Super
Furries’ own label Placid Casual.
marked contrast to the Super Furry Animals output the songs have
immediate impact, despite the language barrier – Gwn Mi Wn
was an attempt to strip a song back to elemental rhythm and melody,
but ends up being a drum-led anthem reminiscent of the Chemical
Brothers’ Let Forever Be. Y Gwybudision (Experts)
sounds like Ray Davies at the top of his form
album also contains two songs named after egg pudding Pwdin Ŵy
1 and Pwdin Ŵy 2, which form a happy/sad song cycle
meditating on the nature of life and relationships. For this reason
alone, you should have this album in your
Discover for yourself at http://www.placidcasual.com/gruff/index.htm or www.superfurrylogic.com. For sheer novelty
value, may I also recommend the Japanese-edition cardboard cut-out
of the Placid Casual logo armchair which folds into a CD holder.