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Rings Around The World

Super Furry Animals
Rings Around The World
(XL Recordings)

It was just over a year ago that the Super Furry Animals announced that for their new album, a nearly unprecidented release would hit the earth. Not only would the CD release come out, but a DVD that contained videos for each of the songs, as well as an entire disc of remixes from the album. It was supposed to be released all over the world on the same day, and I figured that if the wacky group from Wales were going to finally make a splash, it might finally happen with the blanket saturation.

Then, the release date rolled around, and instead of it coming out everywhere, it didn't come out domestically. I wanted to support the group, but didn't justify paying import prices for the release, especially when they were on a big label and wouldn't have had any huge problems with a worldwide rollout anyway. Bastards. I decided to stick it out and catch up on other things that I needed instead.

Anyway, Rings Around The World has finally dropped in the United States, and although it's a couple months later than the rest of the world, there is some small consolation in the fact that the first batch to be released here feature a bonus disc of 7 songs that comprise B-sides from the groups first single releases overseas. Instead of 13 tracks, you now get a whopping 20, and well over 20 minutes of extra music. I won't complain with that, and besides the music kicks anyway.

Musically, this disc is much different than their more stipped-down Mwng release, and much more like the dynamic sonics of Guerilla. They have no problem mixing pop with breakbeats, or tropicalia with vocodored vocals. Nearly everything is fair game with the group, and that's what makes this release one of their better ones. The disc opens with "Alternate Route To Vulcan Street," and after a quiet, contemplative opening of piano and subtle percussion, the track sweeps into a huge, orchestral beast. "Sidewalk Serfer Girl" is again an exercise in dynamics, mixing softer moments with blasts of full-on rock and stuttering electronic work. Lyrically, Rhys Gruff again works his charm, with funny moments, as well as satirical and heartfelt ones.

The group still has a knack for unabashed pop tracks (infused with a dollop of strangeness), and that is never more evident on the album-titled "Rings Around The World," as they take on a hopped-up Beach Boys edge, as well as on the quirky, Love Boat-esque (minus the Love lyrically) sounds of "Juxtapozed With U." One of the strongest tracks on the entire album, though, is the epic-length "Run, Christian, Run!" in which a lonely squib of an acid line twirls out in the background behind an almost alt-country track including steel-guitar. Once again, it sounds weird when talked about, yet the group manages to pull things off. Sheesh. Once again, the group has pulled off an inventive, interesting album, yet I somehow doubt they'll make a splash in the United States since they don't fit into any neat categories or genres. Honestly, though, that's a good thing. Long live the Super Furries.

Rating: 8.5