On paper, The Peth are destined for failure. Generally speaking, and a few minor hits aside, attempts by actors to pursue the musical realm have bordered on embarrassing, with little to no contribution being made to the genre unlucky enough to harbor their ill-advised endeavors. Throw in some relationship drama covered ad nauseam by the tabloid press, and corresponding portrayal as a clich� celebrity on track for implosion and you are, from a musical perspective, asking for trouble.
Tell that to Rhys Ifans, possessor of a BAFTA award and recently broken heart. He more than gets by with a little help from, among others, some old mates. They, in turn, happen to be central figures in one of the more prolific and idiosyncratic rock acts in the modern music era – namely, Super Furry Animals.
The Golden Mile is Ifans’s second musical rendezvous with the Welsh eccentrics; he was their front man prior to Gruff Rhys. This time round they’ve made an album on which the collective gaggle of 10 not only achieve listen-ability, but put on a clinic of epicurean and angst-inspired, neo-psychedelic pop/rock.
Appropriately, reintroduction of one of SFA’s oldest members has resulted in a sound that is reminiscent of their early, Radiator-era work. In addition to the intricately gleeful melodies of old (easily recognizable in the bender Let’s Go Fucking Mental, for instance), The Peth have infused the sound of other rock greats (both classic and contemporary).
Consider if you will Ifans’s voice, drowning in battery acid, in tandem with lush harmonies over a White Album-esque, fuzzy blues verse and a chorus akin to Status Quo‘s Pictures of Matchstick Men on Shoot On Sight (Flock of Zeigheil), a fiery critique of American foreign policy. In contrast are the industrial, Nine Inch Nails-like synthesized tones supporting his voice, now roboticized, on the mocking rocker Half a Brain.
The eclecticism continues with a small homage to The Who, as the dynamic Turbotank and Sunset Veranda call to mind Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley, respectively.
Rhys Ifans does well to blend with the fascinating fusion of sounds found on The Golden Mile, as opposed to upstaging it or fading into the background. Neither virtuosic nor devoid of a sense of pitch, he achieves something equally important to both in terms of significance – believability. In addition to adapting to the quirkiness and rowdiness of the aforementioned tracks, he shows vulnerability on the compelling ballads 69 Fanny Street and Stonefinger. Although often enveloped by the gang of backup singers, Ifans’s presence is more than respectable nonetheless.
Overall, and with respect to the glut of failed attempts by others in the acting field to try their hand as songsters, Ifans’s foray into the music business is a resounding achievement. While the company you keep is immensely important (and admittedly crucial to The Golden Mile’s potency), it is your ability to complement, as opposed to over- or underwhelm the collective unit, that leads to crossover success.