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Written by Aaron Matthews, Popscene is an attempt to re-examine records from the glory years of Britpop, specfically, ones that haven’t been analyzed to death by the North American press. If you’re looking for “Definitely Maybe,” the answer is “no.”

Super Furry Animals are either the best or worst starting point for discussing Britpop. Halilng from Cardiff, Wales, they spent quality time toiling in Welsh-language bands prior to forming SFA in 1993. Since then, they have released two Welsh language EPs, including 1995’s Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (In Space) and Moog Droog.

Following the release of those EPs, the band starting writing songs in English after being inspired by a tight-trousered, Tom Jones, bronze memorial (probably) and a desire to make their music more accessible (true). In 1995, after a gig in London–only their second, outside of Wales- Creation Records head, Alan McGee, signed SFA to his label, the one-time home of Primal Scream, Jesus and the Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and Oasis.

Fuzzy Logic saw release around the apogee of Britpop, with many acts (*cough Kula Shaker) opting to work from the revivalist palette of Oasis’ What’s The Story (Morning Glory), rather than try something new. Meanwhile, Blur and Oasis stayed feuding after the two bands had competed in a chart battle between “Country House” and “Roll With It.” Apparently, this makes sense if you live in the United Kingdom.

Sonically, the Super Furries were never as tied to the  anglo-centric pillars of Britpop as their peers, a result of their late start during the second wave of Britpop. Characterized by a Ween-like mastery of nearly every genre,  Fuzzy Logic stays stylistically staid in contrast to their later work. Their derivations from traditional British guitar bands come via song craft, and provide them with a jumping off point for their whimsically strange pop music, rather than hemming it into a single genre.

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Rather than draw solely from the standard Jam/Kinks/Smiths axis or from the dead Madchester scene, Fuzzy Logic finds its muse in Syd Barrett’s gently trippy psych, and the shameless hookiness of 70s glam rock bands like Mott the Hoople and Sweet. The album also establishes the group’s surrealistic lyrical bent, with songs about hamsters, Frisbees, and Welsh drug trafficker Howard Marks (depicted on the cover in disguises he wore while moving weight). The  Fuzzy Logic sessions also marked the first time that lead singer, Gruff Rhys, had sung in English, explaining the group’s penchant for odd pop cultural references and couplets like  “Frisbee’s:” Locked in a sorry dream/You know we’re drowning in designer ice cream.”

These influences are distilled in the record’s four singles: “Something 4 The Weekend” moving from punky Supergrass rock to lush Beach Boys harmonies; “God! Show Me Magic’s” hard-driving punk pop; stand-out track, “Hometown Unicorn,” a wistful Marc Bolan-like ode to returning home; and “Fuzzy Birds” a conversation between a hamster and his owner. “Hanging With Howard Marks” is the closest the album comes to standard Britpop, with its quirk being its lyrical obsession with the titular drug trafficker.

A glimpse at future promise for a band still finding its sonic footing, Gruff Rhys and Co.’s kaleidoscopic command of genres would come later. Fuzzy Logic provides a window into a band’s musical and lyrical obsessions with instantly hooky, druggy, idiosyncratic pop music–paying tribute to what British rock was, and what it could be.

Download:
MP3: Super Furry Animals-“Something 4 The Weekend”
MP3: Super Furry Animals-“If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You”
MP3: Super Furry Animals “Hometown Unicorn”