Full disclosure: I am welsh and I was a teen in the mid nineties when Fuzzy Logic blew our sixth form common rooms and minds, so reviewing this isnt exactly a chore.
Gruff Rhys is one of our finest, whether it is the legendary back catalogue of SFA, the divine electro gorgeousness of Neon Neon or his 16 year solo output. Bilingual, multi-instrumentalist, he has more than paved his way to the top of the Welsh music legends list, if not the UK and beyond.
Released on Rough Trade, Seeking New Gods is, for me, Gruff’s best work in years, and that is no slight on his last solo albums. This should be the soundtrack to everyone’s slightly-more-hopeful summer.
Opener ‘Mausoleum of My Former Self’, released with a typically Gruff Rhys video full of psychadelia and questions, will lift any mood. Even one still reeling from Weller’s Fat Pop. Note to self, Paul, this is how you do brass on a record.
‘Can’t Carry On’ and ‘Loan Your Loneliness’ continue an unbelievably catchy sound until title track ‘Seeking New Gods’ takes it down a notch. Lyrically, this is smart and seemingly, and rightly, holding religion to account for so much ill, evil and hurt in the world
“Those altars alter the neutral mind/
To turn against all humankind”.
‘Hiking in Lightning’ is a stunning wade through the paradox of excitement, risk and reward, while ‘Holiest of Holy Men’ and ‘The Keep’ return us to the familiarity of his bouncy yet dreamy poetry.
The scene for album closer is set by ‘Everlasting Joy’, a slower, almost menacing visual journey that has you generating vivid mental images of where he may be… my bet is on a lesser known, peaceful spot in North West Wales, away from ice cream vans, second homes and bingo halls. The stuff only we know about.
“From cloudland comes the veil that masks the mountain/
The frozen altars thaw/
Run salty rivers, run to flood the valleys/
And weeds among the lords”/
Final track ‘Distant Snowy Peaks’ is absolutely beautiful, everything from its title, the piano, Rhys’s absolutely perfect vocal. This came as a surprise in the best way. If I’d wavered before, this has absolutely cemented the record as his best solo work.
Seeking New Gods is as divine as that which he teases throughout the record. Gruff Rhys is on top, top form and I’d urge everyone to put hand in pocket and buy this record. With this, Arab Strap and Mogwai, 2021 is once again all the proof we need that with talent and experience comes longevity and consistently brilliant art.
Light a fire, cwtch up to someone you love, and enjoy every minute. Bendi-bloody-geddig, cariad.
Words by Lisa Whiteman.