Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Gruff Rhys – ‘Hotel Shampoo’ (Onvi Records)
Gruff Rhys has been constantly been on the forefront of creating flawless music. Go back to 1996 when I could hear my dad playing a recorded cassette of Fuzzy Logic, the Super Furry Animals have always been there abouts throughout my music listening youth to this present day. And when his Neon Neon collaboration with hip-hop producer Boom Bip came out of the blue three years ago, it proved that Rhys can make anything sound great. However, out of his musical projects, his solo work has often only been sparsely pounded through my ears. Still of course much appreciated but out of everything he’s done I would be honest to say is the least of his work I’ve divulged in.
Here we have Hotel Shampoo, his third solo record to date and the follow up to 2007’s 'Candylion'. First and foremost, what’s great about this new record before I’d even listened to it was the title’s reference to Gruff’s habit of collecting shampoo bottles and other complimentary items from hotels while touring. As demonstrated in this brilliant short film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZLUS7rnzFQ
Onto the LP itself, produced by long time friend and collaborator Andy Votel, the record begins with the exquisite lead single ‘Shark Ridden Waters’. Which those of you who ever listen to BBC 6music over the past couple of months will know exactly what this track is about. For those of you who don’t listen to much radio, basically it’s a beautifully orchestrated piece of sample-led style pop that ultimately sets the tone of what is to come.
In what is a much sombre feel to the album, Hotel Shampoo showcases a variety of instruments from woodwind, brass and strings as opposed to electronic bleeps and beats that are demonstrated in much of Rhys’ other work, with the exception of perhaps ‘Christopher Columbus’ and ‘Rubble Rubble’. In tracks such as ‘Vitamin K’, ‘Take a Sentence’ and the wonderfully alliterated ‘If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)’ there is very much the feel and influence of Burt Bacharach style love songs. The bossa nova swing of ‘Space Dust #2’ is a gorgeous duet of easy listening pleasure featuring El Perro Del Mar’s Sarah Assbring, while ‘Patterns of Power’ reminisces us of what Gruff is used to in the Super Furries.
For me though the standout on Hotel Shampoo is the feel good and upbeat ‘Sensations in the Dark’, breaking away from the mid-tempo ballads of which stands out like a sore thumb because of this and is very much worthy of its future single material.
All in all Gruff Rhys has come up trumps yet again, where he goes back to basics yet displaying an overwhelming sense of musical creativity. Hotel Shampoo is an easy listening record that is by no means middle of the road, with thirteen compositions of sheer talent and modesty that wouldn’t feel out of place fifty years ago, neither do they today. All hail Sir Gruff!
Words: Freddy Rothman