Super Furry Animals
Though the Wales-based Super Furry Animals are sometimes known for their off-kilter sense of humor (driving around England in a purple tank, having Paul McCartney guest on their record by making chewing noises instead of singing), the progressive power poppers now find themselves near the top of this year's hot list.
Phantom Power, their latest CD, is a surrealistic journey that encompasses gorgeous melodies, space-rock and no shortage of social commentaries. "In honesty it's been awhile / Since we had reason to smile," croons singer Gruff Rhys in the lush opener, "Hello Sunshine," but don't fret -- despair never sounded so cool and laid-back. And while such songs as "Liberty Belle" and record centerpiece "Piccolo Snare" address post-September 11 and wartime anxieties, it doesn't feel out of context when an old-school punk thrasher ("Out of Control") is followed by a plodding "Bleed Forever" later on the disc. Incorporating mambo rhythms, pedal steel guitar, horns and psychedelia with a twist of Brian Wilson and a jigger of Elvis Costello, the SFAs' music -- while taking a few listens to appreciate -- exists in a groove all its own.
While their last effort, Rings Around the World, was more of a "grand statement," Phantom Power is a more accessible way to meet these crazed Welsh boyos.
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