Cian Ciaran is known for his work with Super Furry Animals, but he has also spent time recording music with the acid house collective Acid Casuals. They have released a few forgettable club singles throughout the years, but their 2006 debut LP, Omni, exceeded expectations and sounded nothing like what anyone expected. Though electronic in nature, the music is organic and prominently features Cian's keyboard/piano playing. It sounds like a lost soundtrack to an Italian giallo film at times, but changes course by "Bowl Me Over," a catchy doo-wop tune that would feel at home on the last several SFA releases.
Since his appearance on the final (for now) SFA album, Dark Days/Light Years, we have heard little from Cian. He went back to releasing electronic singles on his Som Bom label and mixing/producing (White Noise Sound, which he mixed with Sonic Boom) albums here and there, but few anticipated that he take after Super Furry frontman Gruff Rhys and release a full-fledged solo LP under his own name.
Even fewer expected that his debut LP, Outside In, would sound less like his techno excursions and a whole lot more like the work of a mature singer/songwriter. Outside In is a welcome progression of the cinematic sensibility Cian cultivated on Omni as well as a logical continuation of the songs he led on the last several Super Furry Animals LPs, starting with "Walk You Home" and "Cabin Fever" on Love Kraft.
Outside In is full of Beach Boys-esque gentle ballads and string accompaniments, but every once in a while you get some laidback ukulele strumming and theremin ("Love Thee Dearest"), a silly falsetto chorus ("Martina Franca") in a song about Cian's love for a delicious Italian dish, or a song that rushes you with fairground organs and steady military drumming ("Rollercoaster Ride"). This is decidedly the product of a man who's spent his years cultivating an eccentric identity with one of the most boisterous and experimental pop rock bands of all time.
My favorite track is the closer, "Upside Downers." It's an upbeat track full of horns, catchy guitar riffs, and some really deep bass courtesy of SFA's own Guto Pryce. It's a track Roy Wood would be proud to call his own. "What Will Be" is another favorite. It's a string-laden doo-wop song with a powerful blast of melodic horns that halfway through and you'll keep coming back for more. "1st Time" is also interesting, as it is completely a capella and manages to hold your interest through Cian's awesome vocal performance.
Most will be drawn in by opening track "You and Me," which opens with the memorable line, "What ever happened to all the people who gave a ****?" The album keeps up the momentum and stays concise at a brisk 40 minutes. If you love Super Furry animals, this is a must-listen album. It is every bit as good as Gruff Rhys's Hotel Shampoo and Candylion. Even if you're not too keen on SFA or you've never heard them before, you'll find lots to love here. The best news of all is that Cian already has a "noisy" follow-up LP set for release in January.