Performing with a massive (and loud) quadraphonic sound system and computer-generated psychedelic projections, Super Furry Animals were out to overwhelm the senses. And while the band’s songs and artwork are impressively lysergic, at times the mind wanders and certain questions present themselves. Such as, why is it that when the Welsh quintet wants to sound like the Beatles, they end up sounding like the chilly, brittle “Walls and Bridges” era John Lennon?
That’s not a complaint — even the most quotidian Lennon song is better than what’s currently heard on the radio — but it’s not exactly an endorsement.
It’s hard not to like Super Furry Animals, but on the El Rey stage they just don’t compel attention. For a band that wants so badly to sound trippy, they often come off sounding earthbound.
Their new album “Rings Around the World” (XL/Beggar’s Banquet) is an impressive example of latter-day baroque pop. Songs such as “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “It’s Not The End of the World?” hit all their marks, the melodies reminiscent of Graham Gouldman’s songs for Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies and 10cc, the arrangements touching on the Beatles, Kinks, Zombies, and Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd.
Older material, such as “Do Or Die” and the Welsh-language “Calimero” relied less on backing tracks and came off as effectively punky.
But forced to play along with various drum machines and samples and sync up with the films (which at times were slyly witty: a list of actions that according to the Bible are punishable by death, including “making fun of bald people”) the group’s performances felt restrained. At times, the tapes and machines had more energy than the band.
When the band left the stage to some of the most impressive music of the night — a blistering series of beats that melted into a bluesy quiescent cover of Lennon’s “She Said, She Said,” they only reinforced the impression that this was a production that could just as easily be done as a roadshow film presentation or a concert DVD.