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Gruff Rhys: Sadness Sets Me Free review – an irresistible mix of melancholy and joy

(Rough Trade)
Lyrical diatribes against the government, the monarchy and property developers are rendered in lush instrumentation on the Welsh musician’s 25th album

Sadness Sets Me Free is, by his own estimate, about the 25th album from Gruff Rhys, if you include his work with Super Furry Animals and all of his various side projects. As with so much of what has gone before, it’s a finely balanced mix of melancholy and joy: heavy subjects and a lightness of touch. They Sold My Home to Build a Skyscraper – about cultural spaces being razed to make way for luxury flats – is a case in point, its downbeat lyrics (“They floored my people down with sandpaper”) at odds with its gloriously infectious Tropicália inflections. Cover Up the Cover Up, meanwhile, is an unambiguous call for insurrection that rails against the monarchy, public schools and most of all the government, but one that is realised in subtle pastels rather than primary colours.

Although many of the songs tackle dark topics, most notably the breakup recounted in I Tendered My Resignation, they’re leavened with smart and arresting lines, such as “I said, ‘I’m a barista’/ She heard ‘barrister’” in Celestial Candyfloss. Thought-provoking words, lush instrumentation – what’s not to like?

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