Epic – 2001 – 52 minutes

Now firmly in the majors league since the demise of their former label, Creation, the hype and bluster which has greeted the Super Furry Animals' fifth opus would lead you to believe that someone has reinvented the wheel or, failing that, the DVD and the CD in one fell swoop.

'Rings Around The World' - in case you've been hiding a bunker for the last month - is the first album to be released simultaneously on both formats. A kookily brave move from a band who have always done things their way, but one which puts them in the company of such greats as the eight track tape, the Sinclair C5 and white beer.

Unfortunately the gimmicks don't end there: 'Rings…' could be the pop album of the summer but with Paul McCartney munching carrots ('Receptacle For The Respectable'), caveman metal choruses (the same track), Beach Boys' karaoke (the title track) and neck shattering electro ('No Sympathy') it's a case of a band trying to be too ironic for their own good.

At 56 minutes, it's five songs too long, all of them detracting from the brilliance of the likes of the beautiful, Bacharach sway of 'Alternate Route To Vulcan Street' and current single 'Juxtaposed With You'. Granted it sounds like Twiki from Buck Rogers doing Robert Palmer's version of 'Mercy, Mercy Me' but compare it to the likes of non-event instrumental '(A) Touch Sensitive', and you hear the highs and lows of SFA.

The record label may have thought that this was their big shot at firing the Furries' into the mainstream, instead what they've got is an album that inspires and infuriates in equal measure. They could write the best Christmas Number one ever, but 'Rings...' suggests that they'd want to release it in July.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Alternate Route To Vulcan Street – Sidewalk Serfer Girl – (Drawing) Rings Around The World – It's Not The End Of The World – Receptacle For The Respectable – (A) Touch Sensitive – Shoot Doris Day – Miniature – No Sympathy – Juxtaposed With You – Presidential Suite – Run! Christian! Run! – Fragile Happiness