Super Furry Animals
I was recently reading an interview with legendary producer Bob Ezrin (KISS Destroyer, Pink Floyd The Wall, the upcoming Jane's Addiction) where he lamented the current music industry trend where people are afraid of failure and thus stick to the proven, albeit tired, formats. One band that's not afraid to leap recklessly into the unproven void is Super Furry Animals, hereafter referred to either as Ted or SFA.
Fabricating a whirling kaleidoscopic blend of punk, prog, pop, electronica, folk, country, and rock, SFA have created a true headphone album full of shimmering textures and schizophrenic sounds. At times dreamy, experimental, driven, and bizarre, they remain grounded in some of their strongest melodies to date on their fifth release Rings Around The World, the first album ever to be released simultaneously on DVD with each song having its own animated video.
"Alternate Route To Vulcan Street" is a perfect opener and introduction to this band with crisp solo piano that melts into a wash wavering guitars and dreamlike vocoder vocals, all complimented by a lush string section and creaky noises in a cross between mellow XTC and Radiohead. Rich vocal harmonies similar to Crosby, Stills and Nash along with acoustic guitar begin "No Sympathy" with the haunting line "You deserve to die." While the song begins in folk, it ends in full-out polyrhythmic techno hysteria and the seamless transition between these two extremes simply must be heard to be believed. The hypocritical answer to "No Sympathy" immediately follows with "Juxtaposed With U" which revels in its sugary Love Boat strings and pop melody lyrics of "You've got to tolerate all those people that you hate."
In a more rock vein is "Sidewalk Serfer Girl" where ingeniously tuned rattling sounds give way to heavy guitar riffs, sonic squeals and an explosively catchy chorus. Retro handclaps pervade "Receptacle for the Respectable" which encapsulates nearly every side of SFA in under five minutes. Fun loving, catchy, jangly pop becomes melancholy country which ramps up to heavy techno with the title gruffly shouted above a din of guitars and keyboard noise. Another standout track is "[A] Touch Sensitive" which is a hypnotic instrumental of squishy synth tones and symphonic string figures that banter with orgasmic instrumental groans.
In Rings SFA manages to wrap sad, beautiful, crazy, chugging, experimental, luxurious soundscapes around psychedelic Beach Boys pop with teasingly warped imagery and wit. For those bored with the sameness of radio, Rings Around the World is the perfect antidote.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, October 2002.