Hotel Shampoo is the third solo album from Gruff Rhys and with the title itself being a supposed reference to Rhys's compulsive habit of taking and collecting the complementary shampoo bottles left in hotel rooms whilst being on tour (although this could just be an answer given by the record company to promote a slightly crazy mad genius mould they are trying to promote) it's still a good title.

The album starts with the POP-tastic 'Shark Ridden Waters', a track that is already making waves (sorry) in a lot of people's play-lists including Miles Kane who recently named it in METRO as one of his favourite tracks of the moment. The album itself is a wonderful mixture of piano ballads, psych pop, McCartney Beatles rather than Lennon, Brian Wilson arrangements as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies and vocal figures which especially show their influence on 'At The Heart Of Love' which almost sounds more like The Hollies than they do, splendid.

Each track that follows throughout the album has a minimum of two strong hooks and a wonderful chorus that tend to grind themselves into your mind after a single hearing, like a beautiful day glow migraine. 'Honey All Over' and especially 'Sensations In The Dark' prove that Gruff Rhys is currently hitting his creative stride as his songwriting has raised a notch from his previous work and the Super Furry Animals records.

Like all good albums it doesn't burn itself out or run out of steam too early 'Vitamin K' brings it down a gear tempo wise, while at the same time keeping the quality level high. I can see the Arthur Lee influence in his writing and the ideal that it doesn't matter how crazy and far out you get when recording a song or piece but to remember that the song is what matters ultimately and to never take your eye off the prize melodically. 'Take A Sentence' starts slowly with a horn figure straight from the book of Burt Bacharach but using it so delicately it doesn't over shadow the rest of the track or overstay its welcome, although with it clocking in just over 3 minutes like the majority of the tightly cropped songs here it doesn't stick around long enough to get boring. With 13 tracks on the album it's easy to imagine that there would have to be some filler pad it out and the first one to raise its head would be the song 'Conservation Conversation' which sounds a bit too similar to previous songs, the lull doesn't last long as 'Sophie Softly' starts and brings the gold in sight once again, although it doesn't really detour from the main hook until the very end.

'Christopher Columbus' gives Rhys a chance to spread his wings creatively and shows a different side to his personality with its fuzz riff lead guitar and pounding cut and shut drum track which keep it very interesting throughout as this is more Nuggets era garage R&B which is always welcome for me. What follows is 'Space Dust #2' and is a personal favourite of mine, with its beautiful male and female leads playing lines off each other sometimes echoing each other and sometimes replying with other lyrics. This is an example of what Brian Wilson would call a "pocket symphony" with its arrangement, production, strings, instrumentation, hooks and all clocking in under 2 minutes and 20 seconds is an achievement in itself, a gem indeed. The previously mentioned 'At The Heart Of Love' does indeed remind me of 'Our House' by Graham Nash although this isn't in any way a slight or negative comment on the track as personally being put up with an artist of that calibre can only be positive.

Recently there has been a re-emergence of bands looking to go back and make old sounding or "old skool" records that hark back to the late 60's early 70s, but in most cases they tend to stick out like sore thumbs as being purpose made and fake as a Beatles wig; here I think Gruff Rhys has made a record that does remind me of music made in that era but not really due to the actual effects or production techniques used to make it particularly "FAB", but more the quality of the music and songwriting craft that has been presented. 'Patterns Of Love' is another song that stands its ground and doesn't let the side down with key changes, whirling phaser Small Faces tricks and a strong vocal track; although it isn't as immediate as the following song 'If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)' which has to be climbing the invisible charts to one of the best songs of Rhys whole career with its quirky waltz tempo and beautiful slap back vocal echo. The album concludes with 'Rubble Rubble' and although it sounds ok and doesn't offend the ear's in any respect it seems to be one of the 2-3 tracks that could have been snipped in the mixing stage without any ill effects to the whole package.

Out of the three solo album's Gruff Rhys now has under his belt I would say it's easily his best, and although I'm sure The Super Furry Animals will record and tour again in the future, this is definitely not a side project or something to be put out quietly online; his solo career is very real and very important indeed. One to watch? Too late, he's already here.

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