Compiled by: Jack Foley
"SPEAKERS and microphones work on phantom power, there's
no batteries and they're not connected to the mains, and yet they
"Similarly, as a band, our make up is the same as anybody
else and yet we write songs and play music to people, and we have
no idea why. It's a mysterious power source. I like the idea of
it, a phantom power that nobody understands.
"Phantom Power also sounds like a sinister power source
that controls the world from beyond people's comprehension. And
a lot of the things that go on today seem completely illogical
and I think we watch the world go by with disbelief."
So that's what Super Furry Animals frontman, Gruff Rhys has to
say about the name of the album, itself, now read on for his track
by track guide to each of the 14 songs...
1 - Hello Sunshine
The voices at the beginning are a sample of Wendy and Bonnie.
There's a sense of loss in the sample; a sense of longing. I suppose
it's a courting ballad with a 'been so down looks like up to me'
mentality. It's easy to wallow in misery, it's the most comfortable
place to be. But it's always worth trying to get out of it.
2 - Liberty Belle
For this I devised cartoon characters called Liberty Belle and
Memory Lane, and Liberty Belle, I suppose, represents the bells
of freedom and Memory Lane represents history's harsh lessons
that Liberty Belle always forgets.
Liberty Belle represents the American Dream, which is all conquering
and has no fear. She's young, innocent and carefree, skipping
along.. Memory Lane is the flipside, the one that's learnt from
history's harsh realities. It's sung from the perspective of a
bird living almost in a parallel universe to humans, oblivious
to the gravity of the games which are being played around us.
I think that's how I feel a lot of the time, and a lot of other
people do too.
3 - Golden Retriever
I listen to a lot of people like Davey Graham, a lot of British
folk and bluesmen and European acoustic musicians from the 50s
and 60s, and musically, Golden Retriever has that kind of feel.
The lyrics are a blues parody - "I met the devil at the roundabout"
- I tried to update blues vocabulary, because I think that one
of the things that bothers me most about rock and roll music is
that people keep regurgitating the same words.
I try to make my own cliches, you know? It also coincided with
passing my driving test a few years back, which had a great affect
on my life. In studying the theory test, I had to absorb a lot
of road sign and driving theory vocabulary, which has made its
way into songs like Golden Retriever and Valet Parking.
4 - Sex, War & Robots
Bunf discovered the pedal steel during the recording of the last
album and he's played it on Hello Sunshine and Bleed
Forever. On this one, we got a pedal steel player from Cardiff,
called John 'Catfish' Thomas, for this track. There are a lot
of songs on this record about broken relationships and war, and
I think they go hand in hand, but always with a positive outlook
to the future.
5 - Piccolo Snare
Piccolo Snare is a song about socities torn apart by war
and the waste of human life for nothing, pawns in a worthless
game. A lot of the vocabulary for that song comes from the Falklands
War, the Malvinas War, whatever you want to call it: Tumbledown
and Skyhawks, etc, etc.
It could be about any war, but that was a war I remembered from
when I was a kid, where people from my area were dying, as the
media tried to maintain some ridiculuous degree of jingoism...
Apart from using the vocabulary, it's generally a song about people's
misguided belief in flags. All flags are tarnished; they were
only invented so that people wouldn't shoot their own side in
the war. It's a song in at least three parts. It starts off folk
rock in feel, and builds up to a cosmic funk coda!
6 - Venus and Serena
It's about a child, who can't communicate with his elders, growing
up with two pet tortoises called Venus and Serena. But he feels
that the reptiles understand. I suppose its similar to Liberty
Belle in that sense, in that in this day and age the turtle
seems to take on an image of wisdom compared to the people elected
to governors. It uses tennis vocabulary to make the point. Venus
and Serena have beautiful names and they seem to have exemplary
powers. I think it's about making pictures in people's minds.
After a song like Piccolo Snare, you need a bit of light
to make sure that people don't go out and jump off the nearest
bridge. We feel we have some social responsibility to uplift people.
7 & 11 - Father Father
These were in the DADDAD tunings. I think it puts some breathing
space in the album. They also help to join songs together in mood,
they help to bring the album down, or build it up again, and give
it some kind of consistency. They were originally the bookends
of the song-cycle.
8 - Bleed Forever
Bleed Forever is about the radiation that descended all
over North Wales after Chernobyl, and the general proliferation
of nuclear power stations in the area. There was a huge increase
in leukaemia in children and some livestock are still not allowed
to be sold on the market.
There's even a Geiger counter feel to Cian's snyth on this song!
This was recorded pretty much live. Often during a live take I
sing the wrong lyric, so the line about the skin care consultant
ended up staying in. I suppose we didn't care necessarily if it
was in tune, or not, just as long as it sounded human.
I suppose it's about how you don't see radiation and how you don't
really know if it's affecting you or not. And how it could wipe
whole cultures out. Another invisible, or 'phantom' power source.
9 - Out of Control
It's out most Iron Maiden song. I think Golden Retriever
is pretty heavy rock as well. I think it's pre-metal, if you want
to get technical. 'Ninja Jihad' sounds like a ridiculous cartoon
character. They're very flippant lyrics, they just regurgitate
what we see: everything seems out of control. It's like an over-dramatic
theme to a current affairs programme! Again it's in DADDAD. It
balances out the album - musically, it wakes it up when it could
10 - Cityscape Skybaby
When we went to Colombia in 1997 we got invited to this Marxist
village, they were having this five-day fiesta to celebrate the
60th anniversary of the murder of the local landowner. It's a
song inspired by that, but moved to a Russian pre-Revolutionary
setting! We have such a derivative chorus at the end to counterbalance
lines like 'she came in smelling of cabbages'.
12 - Valet Parking
The album builds to an uplifting end, into an euphoric climax.
I think Valet Parking lifts it up a gear. It's a song I actually
wrote while driving, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone if they
want to keep their license.
We tried to recreate a traffic jam in rural Monmouthshire - we
mike'd up our four cars, and revved them in time to the track.
It's about a road trip from Cardiff to Vilnius. It's a long song
to the process, to the road. Apart from Autobahn, by Kraftwerk,
not enough songs have been written about the glories of pan-European
travel. The title is also a reference to the Brazilian songwriter,
Marcos Valle, who this song is dedicated to.
13 - The Undefeated
It's about underdogs, and over-dogs. It's a real simple lyric.
'Noise pollution soluton'... It's a pop song with biblical references,
and no specific issue or event in mind, although I probably wrote
it when the Welsh football team were going through their worse
period of results in their history. It just shows how sometimes
your fantasies can come true and now the song, apart from the
title, doesn't fit at all. It's about, even at your lowest, seeing
a ray of light.
14 - Slow Life
It's the most epic song on the album - it was either going to
start it or finish it because it dwarfs all the other songs. It
starts off with an electro cop show style intro, which we jammed
on top of and Sean O'Hagan did some amazing strings... the lyrics
are just regurgitating what we hear on the news, recycled, vomiting
them all back. I like the idea that even the mountains have memories
and that people don't forget things easily.