An arch-druid, a mwng and a tartby kyle creasonWhen talking about the current state of Welsh rock music the saying, "Heb ddyfalbara athrylith ydy a 'n amhlantadwy gorweddfa" certainly comes to mind. For a territory the size of New Jersey, Wales has done amazingly well for itself, giving the world John Cale, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, and that prodigious panty-procurer Tom Jones. Yet for a country so rich in artistic talent, Welsh music has gone largely unnoticed. Recently bands like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Catatonia and Super Furry Animals have made a mockery of it all by ambushing the United Kingdom pop charts. As a result, the world's media has begun to turn its gargantuan eye towards the newly hip "Cymru."*
The perfect setting to catch a show by Wales' reigning druid pranksters Gorky's Zygotic Mynci would be over halves of lager and beef crisps in a smoky pub--perhaps accompanied by drummer Euros Rowland's father Dafydd, who is a poet and the arch-druid of Eisteddfod. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci** is truly a family affair. Vocalist and chief architect Euros Childs and his sister Megan (violin) make up 40 percent of the band and their dad puts in part-time duty on medieval instruments. Their most recent album Spanish Dance Troop is a radiant collection of folk ballads for the gasoline age. On the title track, Euros Childs sings a druid nursery rhyme accompanied by what sounds like a crying manatee. On "Faraway Eyes," pedal steel and sawing fiddles submerge you into Gorky Zygotic Mynci's sensory chamber of gorgeous Britpop depravation.
The best thing about the new Catatonia album is that it allows me to use my favorite Scottish word, shite. Not that the album is shite. But that's what R.E.M.'s mild-mannered bassist Mike Mills almost did when Catatonia's horny lead singer Cerys Matthews walked out on stage and stuck her tongue into his Southern and nerdly mouth during a R.E.M. show in London. Can you expect anything else from a girl who said in an interview that a monkey is better than a boyfriend because, "they both spend lots of time masturbating but a monkey is probably easier to carry"? The music is OK, but the real story is Cerys. She has become a media darling partly for a song called "Mulder and Scully" and partly for her curious sex appeal which has led to a rash of letters to British men's magazines that say things like, "I know I shouldn't, but I really, really fancy that girl out of Catatonia. She's the sort that can drink you under the table in the pub, then be assertive enough to drag you back home and teach you a thing or two--all the while maintaining the pretense of complete innocence." Sounds like just what the world needs.
Super Furry Animals hold a special place among the new wave of hot Welsh bands as they have always shown an affinity for their native language. This is demonstrated on their new album Mwng (pronounced "moong"), which has already reached No. 11 on the United Kingdom charts, making it the first all-Welsh language album ever to be a cross-cultural hit. Their addictive pop music couples cultural pride with unforgettable melodies in a way few bands have ever attempted. That Super Furry Animals are capable of cramming songs with names like "Pan Ddaw'r Wawr" and "(Nid) Hon Yw'r Gan Sy'n Mynd i Achub yr Iaith" into your head is commendable, but the fact that it is physically impossible not to sing and hum along to them is astounding. After many millennia the world is finally catching on that people from this harsh and mystical land make transcendent music. As the old Welsh saying goes, "Heb ddyfalbara athrylith ydy a 'n amhlantadwy gorweddfa," or "Talent without perseverance is a barren bed."
* Welsh for Wales
** Welsh for Dimwit Reproductive Monkey