Extra-curricular albums may be a dying breed but Candylion is one beast that demands...
Damian Jones 2007
Extra-curricular solo albums seem to be something of rare beast these days. Last year they were all it - Thom Yorke, Jarvis Cocker, Albert Hammond Jr, James Dean Bradfield. Then shaggy-haired Welsh singer Gruff Rhys decided to unleash his own little super furry animal in the New Year, in the form of Candylion.
Unlike his 2005 Welsh debut, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, which was little more than a series of throwaway demos, Rhys' successor is a much more loveable affair.
Recorded at SFA producer Gorwel Owen's cottage in Anglesey with the help of angelic 9 Bach vocalist, Lisa Jen, the frontman's second outing drags us through a myriad of nursery rhyme sing-a-longs, set up perfectly by the tinkling title track. From here, Rhys throws out each song like a sack of toys. Only some aren't as playful as they first appear. "Cycle Of Violence" for instance, may come on like a galloping lullaby but beneath the surface lies a lyrically darker demon who speaks of apocalyptic visions of terror, dirty bombs and, err... power stations. Similar themes are echoed in epic 14 minute closer "Skylon!" - an expansive airline narrative about a bomb disposal expert stuck on a plane with a TV actress he despises while a lone hijacker waits in the wings.
Set against a monotonous rhythm section, this intriguing tale may occupy a third of the album's intake, but each passing moment is about as compulsive as an episode of 24.
Further afield the acid fuelled "Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru (Driving Driving Driving)" one of Candylion's rare Welsh tracks, sits perfectly alongside Rhys' finger plucking bountiful ballad "Beacon In The Darkness"while the Celtic and cosmic blasts of "The Court Of King Arthur" and "Lonesome Words" sound like they've been plucked straight out of a Monty Python movie.
Extra-curricular albums may be a dying breed but Candylion is one beast that demands your attention.