There's no pigeonhole big enough to contain Wales' Super Furry Animals. Their last album, 2002's masterful Rings Around the World, blended smears of everything from sunny '60s pop to glitch-driven techno to death metal to tropicalia onto their big, orchestral glam-rock palette, emerging with a sound--utterly coherent--that could best be termed joyfully apocalyptic. But unlike other collagists of the eclectic (Beck, say), the Furries' musical strategy suits their larger aims--the band seems, consistently, to be trying to soundtrack a world of information overload, conjuring at once its hyperbolic energy, occasional accidents of beauty and absurdity, and its relentlessness.
So, having created a world, on the seventh day...the Super Furries tried to rest, and failed. Not that the album is a failure--of course not. This is a band too original and too intuitively melodic for that. Rather, Phantom Power appears to have begun as a project in relative simplicity, based around acoustic instruments, the guitar tuning D-A-D-D-A-D and a tone more gentle and sunken than that of Rings. But the band couldn't keep itself from opening its bag of tricks, and has ended up with another cache of multitracked, genre-skimming songs on subjects as varied as the devil, the death of blues, bad breakups and dogs. Oh, wait--that's just one song, first single "Golden Retriever." The rest are similarly dense, and even if nothing on Phantom Power reaches the level of ecstasy summarily hit on Rings, it's still brilliantly typical, and typically brilliant.