Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Apathy Only Ruined Me

One of my favourite lyricists is Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals. His native language is Welsh, which may be why his lyrics tend to differ from those written by songsmiths whose first tongue is English.

To my mind, the band peaked in 1997 and 1998 with the release of the album Radiator and the Ice Hockey Hair EP.

The track Hermann Loves Pauline, which first appeared on Radiator, explores the life and times of Albert Einstein. The opening verse sets the tone:

Hermann loved Pauline
And Pauline loved Hermann
They made love and gave birth
To a little German
They called him MC squared
Because he rapped like no other
An asthma sufferer
Like Ernesto Guevara

I don't think I'll ever hear another song that manages to namecheck Einstein, Che Guevara and Marie Curie, Monte Cristo cigars and Ventolin inhalers.

Another favourite is Demons:

Clarity just confuses me
The lines drawn on a map, a strange assembly
When there's northeners in southeners
And westenders in Eastenders
And sunny days in January
Left spaces in my diary

But the demons never need to know
What the demons never got to see
As we fall in and out of line
Stay in touch now for a while

Cos I know that apathy only ruined me
Hanging around waiting for calamity
And by the year four million
Our skins will be vermilion
I own a dartboard memory
So I'll forget any felony

But the demons never need to know
What the demons never got to see
As we fall in and out of line
Stay in touch now for a while
Cos I know that you know
That we know they don't know what's going on

But the demons never need to know
What the demons never got to see
As we fall in and out of line
Stay in touch now for a while
But the demons never need to read
What we never got around to write
A flirt with mediocrity comes with a heavy penalty
Cos I know that you know
That we know they don't know what's going on...

But my single favourite Gruff Rhys lyric is from Download, the penultimate song on Radiator:

There are people who think, and people who don't
And the people who don't are the ones who have most
There are people who lie, and others who'll cry
And the people who lie are the ones that get by
In the corporate rush to devour the new
We'll be losing our friends who will number but few
Position yourself on another man's cruise
One to share, the other to choose

No other lyric writer I've heard better encapsulates the stark realities of the modern corporate world than Gruff Rhys does on this track. Though the Super Furry Animals have continued to push the boundaries of indie music, welding electro beats, Beach Boys harmonies and scuzzy punk together, they've never again reached the same levels they did on Radiator, which is a musical and lyrical treat, and as good an album as I have ever heard.

2 comments:

J>O>B said...

Hello. Just googling apathy only ruined me and you were the topsite. Could not agree more, its a brilliant lyric he is one of my favourite lyricalists. Roddy Womble from Idlewild is another poetic soul. Much respect...gonna read the rest of your blog now.

Groanin' Jock said...

Welcome and thanks J>O>B. I recently mentioned Super Furry Animals again on the blog, listing Super Furry Animals in the My Favourite Albums series. Enjoy your visit and please come again!