We have all done it, either purloined all the "free toiletries" from within an hotel room or found out that we have accidentally packed a dressing gown or a towel which doesn't belong to us! It appears that my countryman Gruff Rhys the lead singer of the greatest Welsh band ever the Super Furry Animals is very partial in this respect to Hotel Shampoo bottles (some 574 at the last count many of which he showed at a recent Cardiff exhibition) and hence the title of this very loose concept album. There are people in this part of the world who don't so much like the SFA as worship at their alter and this reviewer happily falls into the latter category. So the prospect of a third Gruff solo outing was welcome news as was the understanding that before it was placed into the CD drive it would offer up some stunning highlights, a range of more solid songs and the obligatory couple of duffers. It was ever thus, but that is the price we pay for a singer who refuses to stand still and remains pointing his tank down the road marked fun infused experimentation.
The highlights here scream out on the first listen to Hotel Shampoo and some are real corkers. Yes the ghosts of Lennon and McCartney may haunt "Sophie Softly" but is is a lovely pop song, so too is the wistfully poptastic "Heart of love" which has the word single stamped all over it and some lovely vocals by our hero. Opener "Shark ridden waters" starts with a gentlemen with a deep Italian accent and different radio channels emerging from a recorded radio dial before it shifts into a dark little ditty reminiscent of some of the Supers best work. Indeed the very loud mariachi trumpets on the wonderful "Sensations in the dark" evokes the equally wonderful Northern Lights still one of the greatest British singles never to have reached Number 1.
The faults are limited but "Space dust 2" is probably a bit to close to Kate Bush "Army Dreamer's for its own good and "Honey all over" is rather Super Furry Animals by numbers. Overall however this is a very strong solo album and I know this may be seen as sacrilege in some quarters but I much prefer it to the 80s synth pop of the Neon Neon album "Stainless Style". Gruff Rhys is a minor miracle and evidence of quirky Welsh genius. He doggedly sticks to a course which may not always be the path to riches but produces deeply satisfying and often very romantic music. Hotel Shampoo is an album not destined to set the world on fire but for those with a penchant for a enchanting detour your destination has been reached.
on 13 March 2011
this is an absolutely brilliant, uplifting work. Gruff's best solo album to date.
there's not a single duff track and the absolute highlights are "cristopher columbus", "shark-ridden waters", "sensations in the dark" and "if we were words we would rhyme".
gruff's first album was simple, the second one a little bit more complex and this is another big step forward towards more complex arrangements and subtlety, while retaining the usual charm of his direct, childlike approach. excellent.
on 9 April 2012
As I sit here, typing this review, listening to 'Hotel Shampoo', it's a cold, grey morning outside and that feels wrong. The music makes me think of sunny summer days. In fact, I should build myself a time machine and nip back to the 1960s because it would be an ideal soundtrack to a film set in that era, with an attractive couple in an open-topped sports car racing round the countryside.
Where does 'Hotel Shampoo' fit into Gruff Rhys's considerable musical output? It's his smoothest, most sumptuous sounding solo album by far, with plenty of string and brass accompaniment; this is far from the minimal-budget simplicity of 'Yr Atal Genhedlaeth'. SFA-wise, it reminds me most of (the excellent) 'Love Kraft', in that it works as an understated whole.
The most commercial tracks are packed into the opening section of the album, then it settles into low-key loveliness for the most part, with a subtle folk influence at play. 'Hotel Shampoo' isn't going to change the world of music, but Gruff Rhys is an immensely talented songwriter and this record is a welcome addition to his catalogue of work.
on 17 March 2011
After the concept of Rhys' 2007 long-player Candylion, Hotel Shampoo is an out and out pop record, from the opening ripples of 'Shark Ridden Waters' to the gentle closing waves of 'Rubble Rubble'. The album is 13 songs, all around the 3 minute mark with many of the excesses of previous work honed into a focused album with a rich, warm and melodic glow. It feels in many ways as a more polished companion album to Super Furry Animals' debut 'Fuzzy Logic'. Yes, that good.
on 12 May 2011
the super furrys front mans best solo work yet,a must for fans but a good introduction for the unintitated to the welsh wizard ,a great melting pot of musical styles and influences ,ryhs has a fantastic lyrical wit ,but still has the knack for a great singalong song ,highly recommended