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Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo

Welsh odd-pop whiz Gruff Rhys is notoriously difficult to pin down stylistically, and usually that works for him. Strapped to a sturdy band or collaborator like Super Furry Animals or Neon Neon, his roving eye for left-field electronics, breezy tropicalia, playful psych-rock, and freaky folk is a valuable asset. But left to his own devices, Rhys risks never seeing any one idea to fruition, a reality that plagues Hotel Shampoo. The record opens on a promising note: “Shark Ridden Waters” is a heavy slab of vintage psychedelia, complete with the telltale autumnal tones, deep bass-lines, and swooning “oohs” of Rhys’ forbearers. (The song even samples ’60s psych-folk band The Cyrkle.) Later, a similar feat is achieved with “Christopher Columbus,” a gritty, horn-swamped stomper that sounds like The Zombies with monstrous biceps. But those are the two tracks guided by a collaborator—producer and ’60s rock scholar Andy Votel—while the rest of Hotel Shampoo treads water in the weird pool halfway between the kiddie section and the deep end. Songs like the Latin-flavored “Sensations In The Dark” are upbeat without being particularly poppy; others, like the distortion-swathed “Patterns Of Power,” are experimental without being challenging. The result of Rhys’ soft-focus dabbling is, surprisingly, a samey batch of songs, Muzak for the psychedelic set.


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