Super Furry Animals continue their reissue series with a 20th anniversary edition of their seminal 2003 album; Phantom Power.
Release Date: 8th September 2023
Format: 3CD / 2LP / Digital
Long out of print on vinyl, Phantom Power is one of Super Furry Animals’ finest collections of songs. Now, this delightful record comes with all the trimmings including early versions of songs, B-sides, demos, ‘that’ version of The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, their Goldie Lookin’ Chain collaboration and most importantly, Phantom Power in all of its glory.
It was Phantom Power that spawned the yeti costumes, songs being used in The OC and a rejected song request from Coca Cola for the use of one of their songs.
We’ve heard test pressings of the vinyl reissue of Phantom Power and our minds, now well-worn and occasionally more cynical, were completely blown. Isn’t everything amazing these days? Well, in this instance it’s true, this remastered version is amazing. When it comes to rarities, everything’s here for completists but everything here is worth listening to, as much as for what the songs became but for what they were at the time. Come back in time with us again.Super Furry Animals on the Phantom Power reissue
First of all, the album. The aforementioned Hello Sunshine opens the album in blissful fashion. It’s a song that the band rejected a multi-million pound offer for use by Coca Cola for. It is also the only song that this writer has ever heard the word ‘minger’ in the lyrics. It sets the tone for the album, musically. Bliss is probably a great way to describe a lot of the music.
Piccolo Snare, Bleed Forever and Liberty Belle are all sumptuously melodic; the latter with a little harder edge and the former with a more Americana feel (especially Bleed Forever). In amongst the mix is one of Super Furry Animals’ most famous songs; Golden Retriever. It was a hit on the airwaves and it is immensely catchy.
A factor that has always set Super Furry Animals apart is that of their diversity in sound. Rings Around The World had the insanely heavy close of Receptacle For The Respectable (featuring Paul McCartney chewing celery) and Guerilla had perhaps one of the very first songs about a mobile phone in Wherever I Lay My Phone. On Phantom Power the sound shifts are well measured. Out Of Control is a 3 minute glam stomper of a track with dense guitars and typically unique vocals from Gruff Rhys. It is also the song that mentions the title of the album.
When Super Furry Animals toured Phantom Power, they opened shows with the album closer; Slow Life. Complete with red Power Rangers mask, the show would always start in wonderfully electronic fashion before the guitars cut in and provide a euphoric blast of brilliant guitar pop.
Whenever a reissue is released, it is always fun to see what extras you get. It is also a good benchmark to decide whether the release is value for money. The CD reissue of Phantom Power is worth every penny with the extras that are included.
There are various demos and early takes of songs in play here. With an album so rounded and punchy, it is interesting to hear how the songs developed and which bits got left by the side. During the original album, there are two interludes entitled Father Father #1 and #2. #3 is included here; bring rich string movements and dreamy soundscapes.
All the B-sides are collected. Summer Snow has some fantastic vocal harmonies, Cowbird showcases the orchestral elements further with some sharp guitar melodies atop and Sanitizzzed sounds like a lounge rock and roll track.
Back in the early noughties, one band that managed to be everywhere for a short time were Goldie Lookin’ Chain. It is no surprise that they collaborated both being Welsh, and of a similar forward thinking musical ideology. Motherfokker is the track; it was originally released on a bonus EP with the Phantom Phorce remix album. it has a delicious bassline that snakes throughout the track with rap verses from GLC.
Also from the same EP release is Lost Control which is an extension of Out Of Control from the main album. Tucked away in the rarities section here is the Rockfield Rough Mix of Out Of Control that clocks in at around 15 minutes. This kind of song shows the band hard at work to tighten things up for the eventual cut that made the album.
Elsewhere there are various experiments with electronica and techno as the band form their sound. The AV Happenings Demos are all short but just go to show the wide range of styles that Super Furry Animals seek to include in their music.
A PERSONAL FURRY NOTE
On a personal level, Phantom Power is a real favourite of mine. I saw the band numerous times on the tour for the album. At a gig in Nottingham, I suffered my worst gigging injury watching the band (there was blood). This was during the bands epic show closer, The Man Don’t Give A Fuck. I’d seen the yeti costumes in all their glory at a show at Keele University prior to this but I was gutted not to be experiencing the techno meltdown that accompanied the song due to being in the first aid room getting my foot stitched up! Luckily, this live version is included as part of this set, in it’s full glory.
At Leeds Festival in 2004 I saw the band perform the aforementioned Motherfokker with Goldie Lookin’ Chain, who incidentally, had the biggest noon crowd I’ve ever seen at a festival to sing Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do! It was a joyous time.
Phantom Power is a brilliant album; one full of so much rich texture and melodious harmony. Whilst it is twenty years old, it doesn’t feel it in the slightest. At this moment, Gruff Rhys is ploughing his solo furrow, and the other members of the band are releasing music under the name Das Koolies. Whilst they tread their own path, they remain the Super Furry Animals; and long may they do so – they are a truly a band for the generations.
To celebrate the release, Super Furry Animals are set to join a YouTube premiere of their ‘raw, gonzo-style film’, American Sasquatch. It captures an of-the-era slice of life in a legendary, internationally touring psych-pop band. The previously lost documentary follows Super Furry Animals around the US and beyond. It heads for YouTube premiere on Fri 15 September 2023 at 20:00 BST. Check out the teaser trailer, below.