Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Best CDs of 2000-2004 / # 6

Super Furry Animals / Rings Around The World / 2001
Originally uploaded by seinspahr.


For a decade now, Welsh band Super Furry Animals has been making some of the best psychedelic pop music ever made, mostly under the radar. In the UK, the band has seen some modest success, but here in the States, the band has a much smaller but equally rabid fan base. Before Rings Around The World, the band released Fuzzy Logic (1996), Radiator (1997), Guerilla (1999), and Mwng (2000), which is sung entirely in Welsh, the band's native language.

Knowing they were on the cusp of a more widespread audience, the band opted to showcase a tighter set of songs, which reined in some of the fearless experimention (it's still, there) to reveal a much more cohesive work. Rings Around The World, a loose concept record about the ups/downs of the age of technology/global connectivity, is easily the band's smoothest and most polished record (read "most elaborately produced"). So on the first few listens, I remember wondering if RATW was a bit of a sell out, or at least a compromise. Of course, the more straight ahead approach allowed the songs to speak for themselves, and that's when I realized this was another great work in the Super Furry Animals' canon (this was my Record Of The Year for 2001).

The album opens with Alternate Route To Vulcan Street, a slow builder which perfectly sets the stage for the record. The next track, Sidewalk Serfer Girl, is one of the album's best, a great guitar driven tune about a girl who wakes up from a coma. It's Not The End Of The World, is a somber white-soul number, while A Touch Sensitive, is a techno-laced instrumental with massive amounts of mini-moog and strings that serves as the opening number on the band's 2001/2002 tour. Lead off single, Juxtaposed With U, is one of the catchiest songs the band has written as breaks up a second half filled with slower, more drawn out songs.

It's fair to say that Rings Around The World is like a greatest hits within an album, in that the band crams every style they play into one record, like a musical sampler platter (many of these styles are more thoughtfully explored over the course of entire albums earlier in their career). Still, given the obvious focus on gaining a wider audience, I believe the fact that the songs are so fully realized on this record is why it stands out in their catalog (picking a favorite Super Furry Animals CD, to me, is almost impossible, they're all equal). The track Receptacle For The Respectable is the one track that best encapsulates what this record is about: it starts as an unabashedly poppy song, getting through 2 verses, chorus and an interlude in under 2 minutes, before turning into a slower middle section with trumpets, straight Bacharach-style. Then comes the psychedelic instrumental piece, featuring Paul McCartney chewing celery, and more mini-moog. Finally, the song erupts into a sonic wall of alarms, churning electronic beats, and the chant "Receptacle For The Respectable." All this is done in under 4 and 1/2 minutes. Is Rings Around The World the best Super Furry Animals record? Maybe not, but if you are only going to own one, this is it.

Note: Anyone who knows me and wants to hear this record, don't settle for a burned copy. Come over and watch it in 5.1 digital surround sound. The band commissioned a bunch of artists and directors to make videos for each track, which are truly amazing pieces of art. Also included on the DVD is a complete remix album. Talk about bang for your buck.


Post a Comment

<< Home