Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Super Furry Animals: Rings Around The World
XL Recordings/Beggars Group, 2002
Rating: 4.2 (3.8 without second CD)
Posted: March 24,
The July 2001 UK release of Rings Around The World, the fifth full
length from Welsh pop experimentalists Super Furry Animals, promised to be
the artistic culmination of the group's unique, genre-bending brand of
music. While it proved to be a peak of sorts, mixing elements from the
outfit's four prior releases, artistically much of Rings sounded more
like a band spinning its wheels (albeit with an expensive set of brand-new
tires) than a group charging recklessly ahead, paving the way towards pop's
From the off-kilter Britpop brimming on the Furries' 1996 debut Fuzzy
Logic, through the stripped-down Welsh folk of 2000's brilliant Mwng,
the band has doggedly explored a variety of styles -- from punk to
psychedelic -- with a wonderfully skewed sensibility. Rings is the
refinement of the Furries' hybrid approach to music making, adding lush
orchestral arrangements to the majority of the songs and just plain
overproducing others via a wide swath of studio bells and whistles.
"Alternate Route to Vulcan Street" opens the record with a clean piano
arrangement, interwoven with singer Gruff Rhys' inimitable lyrics concerning
the breaking apart of a relationship. The second track, "Sidewalk Serfer
Girl" concerns a girl who awakens, Rip van Winkle-like, after 15 years, only
to find the world around her markedly changed.
"Receptacle for the Respectable" manages to be intricately structured,
gradually changing from slow beat to rapid tempo and then adding studio
blips and squiggles before breaking down into a threatening, artificially
synthesized drone. And all this occurs, amazingly, within the space of
four-odd minutes. It's the perfect embodiment of what the Furries do so
well: taking normal conventions, 4/4 beats and so forth, and totally
subverting them by song's end. The addition of Paul McCartney's
celery-and-carrots-crunching "rhythm section" is buried in the finished
production, however, adding little to the overall power of the tune.
Contrasting "Receptacle's" conventional-to-bizarre approach is
"Juxtaposed With U," which moves from a computer-voiced crooner to Rhys'
smooth balladry in an appealingly seamless manner. A steady backbeat
conjoined with the wonderfully pacifistic chorus "You've got to tolerate/All
those people that you hate" make the song one of the album's highlights.
The sunny pop of the title track, "(Drawing) Rings Around the World,"
utilizes the notion of space junk revolving around the planet to comment on
the dangers of satellite communication subverting the immediacy of personal
contact. Unfortunately, the upbeat tempo dampens the deeper message, leaving
a fainter impression than was perhaps intended.
The release of the US version of Rings contains the original UK
release, along with a seven-song second disc containing some of the Furries'
best work to date. The main difference between the two discs is the absence
of heavy-handed production/polishing on the second batch, elevating the
overall quality of Rings from a subpar Super Furry release to one of
the strongest albums in the band's formidable catalogue.
"Tradewinds" rides on a funky, progressive drumbeat and catchy hooks,
moving at a smartly clipped pace. "The Roman Road" offers a stripped down,
straight-ahead guitar-strummed travelogue with absolutely nothing
inessential added to the clear, laid-back mix.
Riffing on the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun," "Happiness Is A Worn
Pun" is a flat out rocker drenched in a wash of unapologetically dirty
feedback. "Gypsy Space Muffin," meanwhile, is a lo-fi filtered,
distortion-heavy bluesy number that stands alongside the band's best
If you don't already own Rings, then the US version is the easy
choice. If you bought the UK version last year (like this reviewer), it's
still worth owning for the uniformly great bonus material. Regardless, the
Super Furry Animals are one of the few bands operating by its own set of
rules and while Rings might not cover as much ground as the group's
earlier work, it's still a welcome contrast to the tepid assortment of pop
vehicles currently cluttering today's musical highways.
Rings Around the World
holds the distinction of being the first album released simultaneously on
DVD and CD. The DVD contains exclusive video clips and mini movie, as well
as remixes for each song on the album.
design copyright © 2001-2011 Shaking Through.net. All original artwork,
photography and text used on this site is the sole copyright of the respective creator(s)/author(s). Reprinting, reposting, or citing any of the original
content appearing on this site without the written consent of Shaking
Through.net is strictly forbidden.