We’re big fans of Grumbling Fur here at Norman, have been since the debut LP, Furrier, hit the shelves in 2011 and was followed by the increasingly good Glynnaestra and Preternaturals. Furfour is the latest to the collection and sees the duo continuing their forays into psychedelic synth pop. As ever there’s a simplicity to the songs buried underneath the layers of bulbous synth and catchy pop riffs. It’s infectious and fun. For fans of Moondog, Arthur Russell and Eno.
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It doesn’t matter how much I whinge that they are not, I think I’ll be happier as a person if I just come out and admit that Grumbling Fur are one of England’s more interesting experimental pop groups.
Their last album ‘Pre-naturals’ didn’t quite whet my whistle possibly because I didn’t want to admit that it was as good as everyone said it was. I’m trying harder to like this one and I’ve found most of what I crave in the opening track. ‘Strange the Friends’ has knocked my socks clean off, it’s everything I like in a song: an amazing swathe of picked/sampled folky guitars, spiralling percussion, interesting lyrics and gorgeous vocals. It sometimes shocks me how good music can actually be. One of those songs so good that the eternal pessimist in me reckons it’s a fluke and I’ll go off it soon enough.
Phew. I can’t quite get over that but better move the stylus on. There’s other good stuff on here but nothing like that. ‘Acid Ali Khan’ is more electronic and harkens back to ‘Prenaturals’ folky Depeche Mode sound. Ah Depeche Mode, there’s no getting away from how much they sound like them…but a Depeche Mode that play hurdy gurdys rather than synths. ‘Heavy Days’ also has lots of Dave Gahan and co but generally they are full of ideas in the production which elevates them above much English Music. ‘Molten Familiar’ is a nice Blue States-ish cinematic instrumental and the album is then a series of various shades of Depeche Mode.
There’s a couple of standouts though, ‘Perfect Reader’ is a glorious string drenched piece which showcases Grumbling Fur’s penchant for shoehorning as many words into their compositions as possible. This narrative style doesn’t always let the tracks breathe the way they might and this is spotted again on the otherwise glorious closer ‘Suneaters’ with it’s curling cellos and percussive eerieness which builds slowly to a marvellous crescendo of string work that is one of this years must listen.
They always say start and end your album brilliantly and it doesn’t matter what you put in the middle. Grumbling Fur have done just this though everything they’ve sandwiched in between the two album high points is also worth a listen.
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