Super Furry Animals Love Kraft

It’s been a strange trip following Welsh wonders Super Furry Animals for the last decade. Upon first introduction they seemed like a friendly gang of acid-dropping oddballs with a fondness for psychedelic pop. With each album they’ve pushed the sphere of their music further and further until it reached a peak with the kaleidoscopic monster that was Rings Around the World. 2003’s Phantom Power seemed somewhat of a blissful comedown to complement their universe and now with Love Kraft, they have slipped into an unfortunate creative coma. Fans fear not though: the Furries haven’t turned in a stinker. Love Kraft has a number of wonderfully idyllic moments slathered in their lovable quirky mannerisms. Both "Cloudberries” and "Ohio Heat” emit an easy breezy gust of West Coast ’70s psych-pop, while "Psyclone!” shuffles with both an orchestra and an onslaught of adventurous electronic programming. But the band sink to their waists in gentle AM pop ambience with "Walk You Home,” which feels like an artistic stumbling block, and they waste the zany "Oi Frango” by depriving it of vocals. The Furries’ biggest problem though lies in this album’s lack of singles. For one of the UK’s best and more innovative singles bands, "Lazer Beam” feels a little forced to receive such an honour; normally a song like this would be a fourth single, if that. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for Gruff to share singing duties with Bunf, Daf and Cian, because something’s definitely missing from SFA here. It’s hard to write this off as a failure, especially because these guys are so lovable, but this is certainly a monumental letdown for those expecting their next mind-blowing opus. (XL)