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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Gruff Rhys and his band, Super Furry Animals, have rocked my world since 1996 when they released one of the most magnificent debut albums of all time, "Fuzzy Logic", and they, to my astonishment, managed to surpass their stellar first album several times with some truly remarkable, wildly creative pieces of work. I have to confess, however, that I'm not an uncritical fan and I haven't loved everything that the Super Furries or Gruff have released (Neon Neon left me cold, for example), just a great deal of it. However, it is albums like "American Interior" that reward the loyal fan, as it is, in my opinion, the best album that Gruff has been involved with since SFA's "Hey Venus!" back in 2007 and his greatest solo achievement to date. Based on the life of John Evans, a Welsh explorer who mapped the Missouri River in the late 18th century whilst searching for a lost tribe of Welsh speaking Native Americans, Rhys has written and released a beautifully rich, varied album full of diverse styles and mostly very listenable, enjoyable songs which has the feel of Super Furry Animals throughout much of it.

"American Interior" has inventiveness and artistry in absolute abundance. The title track really is a work of sheer beauty, a truly magnificent composition embellished with strings, setting the scene for the widescreen nature of the album perfectly. There is an immediate change of mood as "100 Unread Messages" is a joyfully performed, comedic piece with more key changes squeezed into one song than most artists have in an entire album. "The Whether (Or Not)" is a delightfully nutty piece which has the hint of a country song peeking through on occasions, a touch of saxophone-drenched glam rock stomp and some inspired time changes to boot. Electric piano and drum beats underpin the sumptuous "The Last Conquistador" but sadly "Lost Tribes" is unremarkable and proves to be the first disappointment of the album. "Liberty (Is Where We'll Be)" doesn't disappoint, though, being a moderate tempo canter augmented by cascading pianos and lush strings, building up to a rather thrilling chase to the end.

The prize for strangest track has to go to "Allweddellau Allweddol", which really isn't the track you want to play to somebody if you want to demonstrate how good the album is; nearly all of my family at one point have independently asked me "What on earth is this?" or words of a similar nature. It's a Welsh language song based on a Native American chant, apparently, but I'll have to take his word for it. "The Swamp" is a really good song well hidden behind an over-busy bass and an annoyingly scratchy electronic beat. Just when the album is starting to grate a little, along comes the terrific "Iolo" which sounds like the theme tune to a rather exciting western. "Walk Into The Wilderness" is another big, classic piano ballad that Super Furry Animals fans will absolutely lap up, as they will the excellent pedal-steel enriched "Year Of The Dog/Tiger's Tale", without a doubt one of the finest moments on the album and a perfect way to end an excellent piece of work. All-in-all, the great moments far outweigh the times when the eccentricity of the songs outstay their welcome and I believe that Gruff Rhys has delivered his finest solo work to date, exceeding even some of the albums he made with his Super Furry bandmates. "American Interior" is rather bonkers at times, but sometimes it's nothing short of magnificent and the bizarre combination of the grandiose and insane is approaching a work of flawed genius.
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on 9 May 2014
Since when did concept albums come back into vogue, I must have missed that particular memo.
So yet another absorbing highly ambitious release from Gruff (although not a concept album with a traditional narrative), adopting his indie-singer-songerwriter persona for this project, apart from “lost Tribes” that has a Eighties Neon-Neon feel to it, “Allweddellau..” which features some Native American Chanting, apparently that an offensive term (you learn something new) & the Country & Western tinged “100 Unread Messages”, which hopefully be an out & out future Gruff classic.
For a recording artist who has taste genuine commercial success (“Mwny” was the first & I think only Welsh sung record to break the top ten in the UK), Gruff is not afraid in the least to risk he career by ploughing his own furrow, by constantly releasing left-field records, well done & long may it continue.
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on 9 May 2014
A mainstay of my listening pleasure since Fuzzy Logic was released in 1996, Gruff Rhys's latest offering is perhaps his best work. There isn't a filler amongst the tracks on this masterpiece. Long may his good work continue.
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on 1 January 2016
I'm a huge fan of Gruff's / (and superfurry animals). Whilst there are a couple of tracks on this album I'm not wild about, there are plenty of good ones and a couple of real crackers. I really like the overall project (i.e. the accompanying film and book) and would definitely recommend them to fans. Also, my partner is not a fan per se, but they enjoyed this album too.
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on 6 May 2014
Another great album from Mr. Rhys, the man just oozes good songs and lyrics. If you are an old fan or not, and have a genuine ear for decent music, then you have to appreciate that even the worst songs on this album are more creative than the majority of music out today.

The album sways between majestic sweeping ballads and jaunty singalongs. Old school SFA fans will like the rockier side and strings of Iolo, along with the Candylion era sound of some of the other tunes, and a bit of a Neon Neon Praxis vibe thrown in too. Although it is part of a film / book / album / app package, the album can stand up by itself as another classy album by one of our most underrated talents.
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on 22 May 2014
A history lesson, a travelogue or a concept album. Gruff always surprising, always great lines, melodies and these odd but lovely electrolyte bleats -the stories in this record are apparently following the trail of an 18th century ancestor who set sail to Baltimore from Wales to seek out a Welsh speaking native American tribe.
The stand outs for me are 100 Unread Messages which whips along in a jolly clip and the rather lovely the Last Conquistador & walk Into the wilderness. The songs follow the trail across America and it is book like and aching in parts. Some might say self indulgent but a thing of clever lines, melodic tunes and quirky bits -a joy.
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on 23 May 2014
This is another lovely release from Rhys. Not as immediate as hotel Shampoo- and no stand out like Honey all Over - one of the best songs fo the past few years. But this does mix it up a little more - some lovely melodies, some great use of choir/backing singers, and overall a great album for the spring/summer days.
The vinyl is great - gatefold with a CD, heavy vinyl with a nice print quality.
I think it is a grower - and worth many repeat listens.
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on 10 May 2014
Gruff's fullest solo effort yet. Kliph Scurlock's (formerly of the Flaming Lips) drumming adds a new dimension to his songs. "The Last Conquistador" is breathtakingly beautiful.
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on 10 May 2014
This has everything you could wish for from the superfurry legend. He is a genius songwriter and combines eclectic sounds and lyrics to create amazing hooks and melody that get better on each listen.
Liberty and year of the dog are up there with any gruff/sfa track he has ever made.
He needs to tour this with a full band to give it justice.
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on 6 May 2014
The other review names two of the best songs on the album, unfortunately a lot of the rest of the album suffers slightly from falling into the easy listening category - kind of a less memorable Hotel Shampoo, which itself fell asleep on itself in a couple of places. That being said - there's enough here to keep us uber-Gruff fans happy. American Interior carries on the last album's lead with a off-kilter lead single, while 100 Unread Messages is Gruff's take on Johnny Cash, and sounds great. Elsewhere Iolo adds a bit of depth/difference to the other lush material. But along with last year's dissapointing Neon Neon album (but excellent Years of Lead ep), this highlights it really may be time for Gruff to give his old bandmates a call and crack on with a new Super Furries record.
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