Release Date: 6 March 2007 (Team Love)
Candylion is a concoction of psychedelic, folk rock, and pure pop music. For his second solo album, the lead singer of Super Furry Animals, mixes acoustic guitar, strings, some keyboards, an occasional xylophone, and a few trumpets and flutes. Gruff Rhys creates an eclectic album that will leave sugar dripping from your ears.
My girlfriend and I were buying a used couch from some friends. Since they were purchasing new furniture, we bought their matching set of couch and chair. To get it to our house we had to rent a U-Haul. The reservation was made about a week ago, but when we went to pick up the U-Haul truck I was told that the reserved vehicle was not available. They were expecting to get a return around noon, but the customer called and pushed it back to the middle of the afternoon. There was a truck available but it would have to be picked up from the service station – about 45 minutes away. We could drive and pick it up or U-Haul could drive me there. As compensation, they gave me my first 50 miles for free.
I decided to take the free ride. My girlfriend went back home. I went to tell the guy behind the counter that I’d ride with him – thinking I’d be riding in a U-Haul truck.
I made a phone call to my friends to tell them I would be late picking up the furniture. Then I found out I was riding shotgun in a small Ford hatchback. The backseat of the car was loaded with trash – discarded paper plates, empty fast food bags, and crumpled paper – piled to the top of the front seats. There were sticky dark stains, soda or coffee (I hope), that looked splattered across the inside of the windshield. There were empty Starbucks one shots scattered on the floor. And there was a white sock slightly hanging out of the full glove box.
My U-Haul guide, Jay, literally fired up the car. I think a caught a view of sparks in the rearview mirror. The engine sputtered and we were on our way. Jay pressed play on his CD player. Out came a wondrous, new album. Candylion by Gruff Rhys.
The album started with a track called “This Is Just The Beginning.” It had some trippy keyboard parts and acoustic guitar as a base. Spoken like a 60’s instructional record, a female voiceover declares, “Welcome to Candylion, an album of 11 songs for the acoustic guitar and voice. But this isn’t a song. This is just the beginning.” This was going to be a unique drive.
I was uncomfortably sitting in a filthy car being driven by a stranger, but I was listening to one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard in a while. The juxtaposition of discomfort and pleasure was emulated in the lyrics to the title track, “Candylion.” “Dreams can come true,/ Nightmares can also,/ Opposites push and pull to the fore.”
“Who are we listening to?” I asked.
“Gruff Rhys,” Jay responded as he lounged in the driver’s seat, at ease in this vehicle of grime. “He’s the singer of Super Furry Animals.”
After a brief pause, my temporary guide began babbling about U-Haul. “It’s funny. Since I started working at U-Haul, I see our trucks everywhere. We just passed a 17NH. I can see them from far away and know the model numbers…”
I started ignoring his voice and listened to the Gruff Rhys album. It had moments that sounded like Jesus & Mary Chain. Other times, the album sounded like an upbeat and more content version of Nick Drake.
“Beacon In The Darkness” was an enticing love song with a bouncing acoustic guitar part. The song picked up and added lap steel. I rocked my head back and forth to the beat of the refrain, “You are the beacon in the darkness,” and had completely forgotten about my mobile guide. Surprisingly, he was still rambling on about U-Haul trucks. “I can practically guess the mileage looking at them.”
After a while I interrupted him to ask, “What language is this song in?”
“I think it’s Welsh, but the last song was in Spanish.” “Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru” is full of trumpets and programmed drums. I don’t know Welsh, so I didn’t know what it was about. But it was very hypnotic. Candylion was ear candy.
While the album was damn good, the final track, “Skylon!” was highlight. Telling a twisted love story with a celebrity turned airplane hijacker, the song is almost fifteen minutes long. Generally, I prefer songs to be less than five minutes in length. This track did not seem to be too long to me. As the track came to an end, I wanted to start the track over. But I was at my destination. I climbed out of the filthy Ford, thanked Jay for the ride, and headed to my rental truck. As Jay drove off, I heard him repeat one of the lines Rhys speaks near the end of “Skylon!”
“Thank you for listening and please fly home safely.”
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