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The Peth
The Golden Mile Isobel George , October 31st, 2008 14:33

The Peth

Shamelessly nicking an album title from the vastly superior My Life Story, this is one of the more wrong-headed side-projects we’ve ever come across. So, it goes like this: straw-haired tabloid train wreck and sometime actor Rhys Ifans, you see, was once singer in the nascent Super Furry Animals before curly pysch-cadet Gruff Rhys took over.

So, instead of thinking to himself “phew, lucky fucking escape there,” drummer Dafydd Euan, in some sort of inverse Back To The Future, has tried to turn back time and make the wrong decision, forming a band with Ifans. Hence The Peth.

Most of the material here is written by Ieuan, and though you might expect that after almost 14 years in the Furries, he might want to branch out, what results is so close to SFA in feel that it’s impossible not to compare it unfavourably. ‘The Golden Mile’, ostensibly a concept album based around the imagined interactions of residents of a stretch of road near the Peth’s studio, sounds depressingly like a pub-rockier version of Fuzzy Logic. Lyrically, gauche as Gruff Rhys’ old nods to Howard Marks and the guy from Sparks might sound in comparison to his later work, they read like Of Montreal compared to Ifans’ efforts. ‘Sunset Veranda’ is the nadir, a thick, chugging strut dragged into the realms of the horrific by backing singer Dionne, whose plastic soul hollering drapes over a Van Halenish verse like a pound-shop Rowetta before Ifans cuts in for the chorus, gooning “can’t you see I just wanna feel ya”, to prove that a change is not always as good as a rest.

‘Shoot On Sight (Flock Of Zeigheils)’ is as novelty as the title suggests, like some sort o horrible crossbreed between SFA and Slade, Ifans bleating “we have found the insurgents” in a supremely irritating robot voice. ‘Half A Brain’ tries on some space-funk grooves and AC/DC-style rusty guitars, Ifans moaning “If you could only put half your mind to something/If you could only do half your drinking”. Well, quite.

But when you get over the disbelief that anyone would actually call a song ‘69 Fanny Street’, you have to grudgingly admit it’s not all bad. If they’d somehow managed to sneak it out without making their connections known, it would have stood up as less annoying and more comepetent than most common-or-garden indie releases this year, and is a work of Sistine Chapel-esque grandeur compared to the Rascals, Dirty Pretty Things or Kaiser Chiefs albums. ‘Honey Take A Bow’ for example, is a moody low-slung thing that sounds like The Flaming Lips on an off day covering a late Spiritualized gospel-rock number, with jubilant brass and multi-layered vocals. ‘Turbotank’ is quite shoegazey, thick and surging, and as such benefits from the fact you can barely hear Ifans.

But even these few high points leave you wondering why you’d step through this particular sliding door, when the alternative future that Dafydd Ieuan and the Furries actually chose doesn’t really inspire “what ifs” such as these.