Still fighting harder than any others for the relevance of modern Welsh rock‚ the only real problem with the newest from the Super Furry Animals is that they may be starting to take themselves too seriously. Despite the rocking‚ forty-five-second‚ ultra-literal opener‚ "The Gateway Song‚" it takes way too long for the U.K.'s fuzziest rockers to expose those quirky bangers that they're best at.
"Run-Away" comes off like mid-career Elvis Costello-you know‚ tough yet unwillingly family-friendly. "Show Your Hand" sounds just as formulaic as you would expect a tune with reverb on the harpsichord‚ background orchestration‚ and a few "bah‚ bah‚ bahs‚" yet it meshes as well as any Herman's Hermits tune ever did. The Motown sway of "The Gift That Keeps Giving" is only distinct enough to keep it from dragging for a minute‚ but drifts off before the halfway point. And frankly‚ it seems way too weak when put next to the familiar SFA rockers.
The band as a whole simply feels so much more comfortable on tracks like "Neo Consumer"-a few tweaker laser sounds underneath the "oh‚ oh‚ oh" sing-along chorus‚ plus a little stutter-step in the drums. I mean‚ if the formula ain't broke… It's just that the slower songs seem pushed and contrived compared to how smoothly "Into The Night" rocks. I'd love to hear it with a crackle underneath; vinyl is still pressed because of bands like this.
The Queens Of The Stone Age vibe of "Baby Ate My Eight Ball" proves the wit is still there too. The track continues to tighten as it unrolls‚ even though the lead vocals are a little too delicate-British-stoner for me. Yet despite my affection for the acquainted Super Furry rocker‚ I can't deny how much I'd love to hear the creepy‚ bliss-waltz of "Carbon Dating" in a new David Lynch movie. Plus‚ the anti-ballad‚ "Suckers‚" actually makes all of the preceding slow stuff make sense.
Hey Venus! reaches and falls from its apex a little too quickly‚ and can cause the first go-around to be a bit of a letdown. But for the hardcore fan‚ and for those willing to push through‚ there is a timelessness to this album that few of SFA's modern rock contemporaries can match right now. Definitely worth letting in.