Music reviewsFront Door1 - Eisley2 -Wir sind Helden3 - Antony&Johnsons4 - Blue States6 - Innocence7 - The Radio8 - Kathleen Edwards9 - t.A.T.u.10 - Whipping Boy11- Ladytron12 - Covers13 - Patty Griffin14 - OK Go15 - Beth Orton16 - Rilo Kiley17 - Butterfly18 - Lauren Hoffman19 - Pipettes20 -Fairies21 - Talk Talk
Sound of Music 5 - Gruff Rhys

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. 

I mean, 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.

Wales 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’).

None of 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.

Gruff 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 fashion.

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.

In 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

The 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 collection.

Discover for yourself at or 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.


The Sound of Music | Front Door | Sound of Music 1 - Eisley | Sound of Music 2 - Wir sind Helden | Sound of Music 3 - Antony & the Johnsons | Sound of Music 4 - Blue States | Sound of Music 6 - The Innocence Mission | Sound of Music 7 - The Radio | Sound of Music 8 - Kathleen Edwards | Sound of Music 9 -tATu | Sound of Music 10 - Whipping Boy | Sound of Music 11 - Ladytron | Sound of Music 12 - Covers | Sound of Music 13 - Patty Griffin | Sound Of Music 14 - OK Go | Sound of Music 15 - Beth Orton | Sound of Music 16 - Rilo Kiley | Sound of Music 17 - Butterfly Explosion | Sound of Music 18 - Lauren Hoffman | Sound of Music 19 - The Pipettes | Sound of Music 20 - Sugarplum Fairies | Sound of Music 21 - Talk Talk