Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World (2001): Review

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Produced by Chris Shaw and Super Furry Animals
Label – Epic

Nobody could ever accuse Super Furry Animals fifth album of being slap dash. Following the demise of Creation Records, the signing to major league Epic brought about a sizeable re-evaluation of their output, and an effort to provide entertainment on more than one level. This led to the pioneering decision to release the new collection both as CD and an interactive DVD featuring 13 specially made films to complement each song. The DVD of wonky graphics and dodgy animations really doesn’t enhance the glorious ambition of the music, as Gruff Rhys and co. pull together their complete arsenal of styles for 52 minutes of startling surprises and sparkling tunes. With nods to Brian Wilson, The Beatles, CSN&Y, 70s soul, Bacharach, there’s hardly an influence untouched, and allied with keyboardist Cian Ciaran’s modernist beep, blips and techno beats it’s hard to deny that this whole menagerie could have ended up being a heaving mess, were it not for consistency of the songs, and the un-diluted sense of fun that flows throughout. There’s no tethering the sense of excited, wide eyed bewilderment as they contort some of the most bizarre genre twists. A prime example is the transition from the shiny Beatles/Beach Boys pop to Rhys’ death metal roar on “Receptacle For The Respectable”. Whilst many artists and bands struggle to effectively delve into music from the past, SFA use it to enhance their contemporary grip on technology and improved recording conditions.

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As if to lull the listener into a premonition of impending melancholia, the sweetly haunting opener (“Alternate Route To Vulcan Street”) is at odds with the remainder of the collection, and yet still as compelling. “Sunshine Serfer Girl” exposes the progress the band have made, fearless of combining percussive loops with psychedelic pop/rock, whilst the joyous title track warns of technological overload with harmonies Brian Wilson would be proud of. One of the most remarkable curveballs arrives three quarters through the relaxed yet ironic Laurel Canyon folk rocker “No Sympathy” which increases tempo to the futuristic electro beats that explode from the speakers. It’s then followed by a fairly convincing stab at 70s soul combined with Daft Punk robo-vocalisms for “Juxtaposed With You”.

“Rings Around The World” is a resounding out and out winner. It sweeps you off your feet in its musical versatility, direction, wit, and above all sheer nerve.

9/10

Track Rating
1 – Alternate Route To Vulcan Street (9)
2 – Sidewalk Serfer Girl (9)
3 – (Drawing) Rings Around The World (9)
4 – It’s Not The End Of The World? (9)
5 – Receptacle For The Respectable (9)
6 – [A] Touch Sensitive (7)
7 – Shoot Doris Day (8)
8 – Miniature (n/a)
9 – No Sympathy (9)
10 – Juxtaposed With U (8)
11 – Presidential Suite (8)
12 – Run! Christian Run! (9)
13 – Fragile Happiness (8)

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