Super Furry Animals - Out Spaced

A COMPLETE MESS, THEN. Picking through the wreckage of psychedelic punk, daft West Coast cruising rock, bleary singalongs, random distortion, interference and violent electronic skronk that is this collection of Super Furry Animals B-sides and associated bits and pieces, it becomes clear that easy assimilation has never been one of their highest priorities.

'Out Spaced' is a case study in chaos theory: in how wildly disparate, apparently badly thought-out and occasionally reviled rock variants can mystically combine into something radical, accessible and, at times, even coherent. That notorious fuzzy logic in full effect. Exactly how it works is a question that has baffled most of us since the earliest tracks on this entrancing compilation first turned up as a seven-inch on Ankst in early 1995.

Perhaps - as 'Blerwytirhwng?''s woozy California classicism spins off into an endless channel-flipping acid-industrial meltdown - it's because they manage to bring an air of ingenuousness to everything they do.

When SFA echo The Beatles on 'Dim Bendith', they do so with such enthusiastic innocence, you could almost believe they've stumbled on this dippy anthemic style by accident, rather than having diligently studied and reproduced the work of their elders. Almost uniquely, there's no apparent irony here, no cripplingly cool knowingness. The genius of Super Furry Animals is to appear true freaks of nature.

As with Creation's recent and lucrative Oasis B-sides compilation, 'Out Spaced' is craftily built so that it works as a proper album rather than a hotch-potch of second-rate material: many tracks here - notably the yelping garage ramalam of 'Guacamole' and 'Don't Be A Fool, Billy''s ridiculously po-faced take on '70s AOR - are easily good enough to be singles in their own right.

Unlike 'The Masterplan', however, it offers much more value for money, given the extraordinary breast-shaped rubber sleeve and the inclusion of five pre-Creation tracks only the oldest, richest and most determined fans will already own. The best of these is 'Fix Idris', a characteristically frail exemplar of symphonic rock that probably originated all those early 'lo-fi ELO' jibes.

Two of Super Furry Animals' best-known songs are here, too, ostensibly to snare more casual consumers. 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck' and 'Smokin'' - the former their euphorically puerile high point, the latter a sludgy, faintly naff nadir - are both, essentially, experiments in irritation. There's a rare and dubious knack of locating the crassest, most niggling melodic phrase and repeating it for most of a song, while myriad musical genres collapse all around them.

This is the peculiar and profound, fucked and fried majesty of Super Furry Animals. Prod them, analyse them, pull them to pieces and measure their constituents, but it's still hard to make much sense of them. Best leave them to it, really. 7/10

John Mulvey