Rings Around the World
The latest crop of British import albums now landing on American shelves includes a few more acts indebted to Radiohead, but refreshingly, there are some standout originals. Take Rings Around the World (Beggars/XL), the fifth record from Welsh oddballs Super Furry Animals. Overlong (80 minutes, counting a second CD containing seven B sides) and overly cluttered with instruments (horns, strings, winds, reeds, a harp) and gimmicky sound effects, ”Rings” has, not surprisingly, also been overhyped by a Radiohead-weary press hungry for new sounds. But only a little overhyped. At its best (the Beatles-y ”It’s Not the End of the World?” and the unabashedly nasty ”No Sympathy”), the album recalls a lost Brian Wilson-style psychedelic marvel, complete with blankets of harmony, multilayered orchestration, and labyrinthine structures. (In one lovely Smile-like touch, Furry friend Paul McCartney appears playing the ”celery + carrot,” whatever that means.)
Unfortunately, that extraordinary core is at times marred by forced eccentricity: gratuitous techno interludes; a heavy metal gorgon voice booming through ”Receptacle for the Respectable”; and the awful lite-rock homage ”Juxtapozed With U,” which sounds like an update of the ”Love Boat” theme (can we please not have a Paul Williams revival? Pretty please?). If they’d cut the fat and ended with ”Run! Christian, Run!” — a rattling look at religious fanaticism that sounds like Pink Floyd if Gram Parsons had joined instead of David Gilmour — it might have been a big, momentous album that lived up to the buzz. As it is, ”Rings” is just big, but it does contain enough twists and turns that digging through it is a thrilling exploration rather than a chore.