22 March 2011
listen: hotel shampoo
Story by Andrew Reinholds
Leaning heavily towards psychedelic and experimental, Hotel Shampoo presents a stripped back, simpler sound.
Gruff Rhys is better known as lead singer of Welsh band Super Furry Animals, one of the UK’s leading left field lights, that has built a wonderfully eccentric body of work over the last fifteen or so years, producing some of the most delightful and fun music of recent times.
It’s probably no surprise given he is the son of Ioan Bowen Rees – “a poet, essayist, polemicist, mountaineer, internationalist and white robe druid of the Gorsedd of Bards” according to his Guardian obituary
More recently, as well as the odd solo album, he has collaborated with artists as varied as De La Soul and Gorillaz (on Plastic Beach), the sadly no longer with us Mark Linkous band Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse.
Leaning heavily towards a psychedelic and experimental sound, Hotel Shampoo, his third solo effort, doesn’t represent a major departure for Rhys; if anything it is a more stripped back simpler sound than the full on head rush of the SFA experience.
The album’s title is a reference to his, by all accounts, impressive collection of hotel shampoo he has collected over the years while touring. And the album does have a wonderful hotel bar soundtrack feel to it, with the songs driven along by some gorgeous piano melodies – you can almost the picture the lone, unappreciated Rhys in the far corner while you sip your drink at the bar, with barely another soul in the room.
It’s a beautifully lush record, perfectly the album’s title, with the easy on the air harmonies and song structures reminiscent of the late 60s Beach Boys. Other references would be the Motown-esque Sensations In the Dark and the Sinatra and Hazlewood inspired Space Dust #2
There’s still time for some mischief on album opener Shark Infested Waters, with the song’s protagonist passionately declaring “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’m truly…at the end”
Overall though, it’s a gloriously warm, humorous and charming record. Effortless and understated, it suggests that creatively he remains at the peak of his powers despite his phenomenal output.
Indeed, it’s further evidence that he is a performer and songwriter of remarkable talent and deserves to be inducted into music’s alternative left-field hall of fame where he would sit very comfortably alongside other more well known luminaries such as Jarvis Cocker.
It’s impossible for this record won’t put a smile on your face – enjoy!