Here's the latest from Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys which is his first for Rough Trade in quite some time. He's recorded it with composer Stephen McNeff and the (wait for it) 72 piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales. That's an amazing amount of people/instruments. Early indications suggest it is his best album to date which is quite some going as the lad is a very consistent performer as it is.
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Very talented bloke both with Super Furry Animals and solo I had enormous high hopes for this from the early press clippings but despite many examples of strong songwriting skills I'm finding Babelsberg a claustrophobic and over-sweetened listen.
Babelsberg is indeed an ostentatious album by an artist who is usually noted for being fairly understated. Things start in Glen Campbell territory with 'the sweeping strings of 'Frontier Man' not a bad song but it just sounds like a Lee Hazlewood outtake - nothing more, nothing less. "The Club' lets us know several times that the singer got threw out of a club (the EU?). Over and over we're told whilst lavish strings masking the lack of a memorable melody. Better is 'Oh Dear!' with a much more interesting and typically Gruff Rhys tune possibly a little like Belle and Sebastien in its execution. Perfectly serviceable.
Maybe the record was just too excited to show us its wares as it does start to become more enjoyable as it settles in - the chorus of 'Take that Call' for example, the lovely acoustic strumming of 'Negative Vibes' being particular highlights during the mid part of the record.
I'm just....having issues with the relentless and overbearing string arrangements. There's little space to breathe. And indeed the predictable 'Same Old Song' references "the consequences for all that gluttony". It is gluttony which helps aphyxiate this album. Gruff Rhys is a good enough songwriter not to need a 72 piece orchestra, millions of piano twinkles or a Lily Cole duet to makes his points. Crash diet needed.
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