I'd like to be impartial and review this like a professional but that's just darn near impossible.
See, I have to confess something: I am a massive Super Furry Animals fan and have been for nearly 19 years now. While I've only seen the band a few times -- not nearly enough, admittedly -- I did plan my first trip to the UK partially around a Super Furry Animals gig in Wolverhampton in April 1999. The band was magnificent and the sound in the hall the best at any concert I've ever been to. Having just seen the Furries in D.C. at the Black Cat a year earlier, the 1999 Wolverhampton gig, with openers Clinic, was a mind-blower. Grabbing the advance CD single of "Northern Lites" in a shop in London on that trip only made my first visit to the British Isles even more perfect.
So let's just say I was predisposed to dig this new record from SFA guitarist Huw 'Bunf' Bunford's band The Pale Blue Dots. Bunf is joined by Richard Chester and the resulting record, called Lots of Dots and out now on Strangetown Records, is a blast. Equal parts SFA-styled loveliness and funky and weird soundtrack-esque explorations, Lots of Dots is, like that Wolverhampton gig 15+ years ago, a mind-expander for me.
"No Motivation" purrs by like the ghost of George Harrison popping up via time machine in 1997 to record a b-side for a single from Radiator (1997).
And that cut comes a few tracks after the blissed-out "Slow Reaction" -- free MP3 below -- which feels like the perfect companion to many of the cuts on the last 2 SFA studio albums.
The sublime "Aquarium" coasts in on vocals Jeff Lynne would sell his soul for with a hook more worthy of the stuff his one-time ELO-mate Roy Wood was throwing down in service of The Move. The strings only add to the magic of the cut.
"Look Into My Eyes" adds a bit of Air to the mix. The cut is all sleek lines and smooth production in the service of something that veers a bit outside the familiar SFA terrain. Altogether fantastic, the tune is the space age disco cousin of the longer jams on the earliest SFA releases.
"Nebraska" is the very prog-y but very beautiful album closer. More like Gabriel-era Genesis than anything on Fuzzy Logic, for example, the tune succeeds due to both Bunf's acoustic guitar and Chester's electronic textures. Still, it doesn't matter which one of these guys played what when the results are this otherworldly.
Lots of Dots by The Pale Blue Dots will not disappoint any fan of Super Furry Animals. Heck, even a new fan will be drawn further into the exploits of these geniuses upon hearing this. And if nothing else the album makes me want to run out and get everything associated with Richard Chester too.
Whatever that indefinable SFA sound is remains prominent here, even as the music takes welcomed detours into new directions of near-soundtrack abstraction and bright bits of electronica.
Lots of Dots by The Pale Blue Dots is out now via Strangetown Records.
Follow The Pale Blue Dots on their official Facebook page.