The standard of releases in first quarter of 2011 has been unbelievably high. Not to complain but being inundated with almost too much music to manage has it’s drawbacks. Here is yet another record from the backlog well worth getting your mitts on.
Gruff Rhys has to be one of the world’s most underrated musical talents. For over a decade and a half he has been brightening our lives with Super Furry Animals, his many collaborations and of course his solo work.
There have always been two sides to Gruff; the reckless experimentalist and the reflective, hazy, whimsical lover of psychedelia. Hotel Shampoo falls into the later. Much of the record bobs along on soft drums, rich production and his soothing vocals; typified by mysterious opener ‘Shark Ridden Waters’.
It like ‘Sensations in the Dark’ and ‘Vitamin K’ are shimmering pieces of musical escapism, the former headed by wonderful bursts of trumpets, reminiscent of ‘Northern Lites’. ‘At the Heart of Love’ and ‘Christopher Columbus’ are bleaker and prove he not just about putting smiles on faces. Meanwhile ‘Honey All Over’, ‘Patterns of Power’ and ‘Sophie Softly’ could comfortably slip in to any of his previous work over the last decade without feeling out of place.
Hotel Shampoo manages to strike the perfect balance between Rhys’ desire to indulge his oddities, lyrical humor and touching sentiment while making it all sound so natural and effortless. A wonderfully warm and charming, if somewhat restrained record. This is the most complete and engaging solo effort to date from a man who has proved his talent and versatility as a songwriter time and again. Will it see him receive some well overdue acclaim? Probably not but it’s a damn fine record.