“Now that you’re here, tell me you’re a non-believer!” cries the closing seconds of Ice Hockey Hair, just one of Songbook’s 21 charms. It’s a bold challenge, and rings true throughout.
This is an album that has been 10 years in the making. It is the materialisation of an inevitability known by Super Furry fans ever since the opening chords of God! Show Me Magic on the seminal Fuzzy Logic way back in 1996.
As far as singles collections go, few bands can match the strength and breadth of Songbook. The tracks, whilst striding confidently from techno-rock (Slow Life) and rousing anthems (The Man Don’t Give A Fuck) through to brooding ballads (Fire In My Heart) and Welsh-language alt-folk (Blerwytirhwng?), never drops an ounce of quality or credibility. Super Furry versatility, a trait known to fans, is at last exhibited to its fullest extent on one glorious CD.
It goes without saying that Songbook does exactly what it says on the tin. That is to say it incorporates every single ever put forth by the Welsh wizards from each of their six studio albums to date: Fuzzy Logic, Radiator, Guerilla, Rings Around The World, Mwng and last year’s Phantom Power. A great wealth of material to draw upon, I’m sure you’ll agree.
At this point I could pick apart the tracklisting for you, attempting to make thoughtful insights and conclusions along the way. The fact of the matter is, however, that there doesn’t appear to be any kind of reasoning behind the order of the singles on Songbook. They certainly aren’t chronological (latest single Slow Life appears as early as track six), and, stylistically speaking, Songbook changes on a track by track basis. More than anything, this haphazard amalgamation truly demonstrates the stark absence of filler as well as the aformentioned musical versatility. I can’t think of many other bands that could afford to be so laid back in this sense.
For the long-time follower there is the inclusion of several gems, notably Ice Hockey Hair (never included on an album) and album-closing Blerwytirhwng?, taken from the band’s pre-Creation EP Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogery-chwyndrobwllantysiliogogogochynygofod (In Space). Given that last week saw the release of a Super Furry single in the form of the 20 minute live version of The Man Don’t Give A Fuck and the appearance of the Songbook DVD on the horizon (containing every video, for starters), however, the Songbook CD may not exactly be considered a priority for purchase. That said, there is clearly no better way to subvert a friend to Super Furry ways by handing him or her a Songbook CD for their birthday.
Songbook, as such, serves as a either a doorway to a whole new world or as the confirmation of fans’ long-held suspicions: That Gruff Rhys, Cian Ciaran, Dafydd Ieuan, Guto Pryce and Huw Bunford form one of Britain’s very best contemporary bands, and have done for a decade and more. Roll on Spring 2005 and their seventh studio album.