In his band of Welsh weirdos, Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys regularly leads the charge through a vast smorgasbord of psych, rock, electro and pop music—all seasoned with liberal dashes of metal, Latin, calypso and whatever else is lying around. Like the Creole dish gumbo, beyond the basic structure, the remaining contents in the pot are an equal case of whim and what's within arm's reach. His solo efforts, however—while still generally off-kilter—have tended to have a more narrow focus. Whether the all-Welsh song sketches of 2005's Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, or the acoustically powered folkpop of 2007's Candylion, these albums are more sharply defined. At least for someone as restless as Rhys.
Hotel Shampoo bridges the gap somewhat between these two worlds, and is easily the most SFA-ish solo effort by the man. If it lacks the guitar muscle or dance-club thud of his day job, it still boasts a tempting array of flavours. In keeping with being a solo release, it also manages to convey them in a fashion less schizo than a full-band effort. So even though we get the lush and lugubrious "Honey All Over", the briskly frank "Conservation Conversation", the sing-song "Sophie Softly", and the gorgeous horn-driven ballad "Take A Sentence", everything speaks fluently from tune to tune. Rhys' gorgeous tenor anchors the record in this respect, guiding the proceedings with a relaxed, casual hand while never dipping into the crazed scream of which he's more than capable. It's just not the right time, y'know?
After some twenty years at this, Rhys is well-skilled at making an album that is equally breezy and rich, consistent and varied. He's a highly underrated popsmith, and Hotel Shampoo is yet another beautiful day at the office.