The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Gruff Rhys
Hotel Shampoo Julian Marszalek , February 16th, 2011 06:08

The sheer and utter tedium of staying in a hotel for just a few nights is enough to drive most people round the bend. The level of entertainment rarely rises beyond the overpriced mini-bar, a night in front of the TV (or wireless connection you're really lucky) or a quick stroll around the neighbourhood before deciding that a nightcap might be a good idea before turning in from the boredom of it all. Now multiply that into 15 years as each morning you wake up to see another shade of pastel painted wall.

Of course, if you're Gruff Rhys – a man whose sideways views of the world at large has contributed to the creation of some of the most delightful, fun and utterly compelling music of recent times – the opportunity arises to turn the mundane into something of note. Having collected hundreds of miniature bottles of shampoo along with other hotel ephemera during his time on the road with Super Furry Animals, Rhys has fashioned an art installation called – wait for it – Hotel Shampoo while this, his third solo album, is the accompanying soundtrack.

Unlike Stainless Style - Rhys' excursion with Neon Neon – Hotel Shampoo is not a concept album though it is held together by the notion that Rhys wanted the music to sound as if it was soundtracking a hotel bar. The result is more considered affair than his previous two releases with the ivories coming to the fore as they induce the mild sense of melancholy that a night in a hotel lobby with a pint and a packet of crisps does for you.

Of course this being Gruff Rhys, an air of psychedelia (akin to a few modest dabs) pervades throughout which adds an added dimension of whimsicality. But there's humour to be found too as 'Sensations In The Dark' and 'Honey All Over' serve to remind how this whole project got started. 'Take A Sentence', 'Christopher Columbus' and the aforementioned 'Sensations After Dark', see Rhys reunited with a horn section and, while recalling 'Guerrilla' or 'Rings Around The World', are infused with enough of their own personality to truly endear.

There are moments of regret - 15 years on the road will surely give you a few, but as 'Vitamin K' shows, this is far from a chest-beating confessional and more a weary acknowledgement of what the nomadic life, untethered by the security of home, will bring.

There's a comfort to be had in the knowledge that Rhys has every intention of reuniting with Super Furry Animals, though as to when ands where that might be is a moot point. Until then, unlike those identikit chain hotels with their flush-clean bathrooms, militant desk staff, and little pots of UHT milk, Hotel Shampoo offers respite and a pause for reflection.