Super Furry Animals

The often-costumed Welshmen of Super Furry Animals--current pop's premier gang of guitar-strumming, string-arranging, harmony-singing, occasionally techno-pumping Wings fans--have managed a rare feat on their last two albums, 2001's Rings Around the World and last year's Phantom Power: dreamy, self-consciously widescreen guitar pop that offers escape into pure sound without sacrificing an awareness of and reaction to the outside world, the one you can't escape because presidents keep getting blowjobs and blowing up shit. Musically, the band's got plenty of peers: the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, fellow Welshies Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and any number of cut-rate indie bands navigating magical mystery tours through pilfered ProTools manuals. But search those groups' records long and hard for meaning beyond local flavor or sad scientists or, I dunno, Snow White's delicate little frown, and you'll come up depressingly short. Which, sure, isn't a bad thing on its own: Every generation deserves--even needs, maybe--its own tailor-made whimsy, and if Grandaddy's spectral down-home technophobia doesn't much resonate in an election year, well, next year's not one. But super-est Animal Gruff Rhys is an idea guy in addition to being one hell of a song guy; when he bangs his "Piccolo Snare," just try not to fall into line behind him.
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Mikael Wood