Animal Collective gets asses moving
In the last five years or so, the usually Frankenstein-limbed members of the indie-rock-listening community remembered that they have asses. More to the point, they remembered that, sometimes, it’s fun to throw back your head, shut your eyes, and shake said backside like it was on fire.
Artists like Girl Talk and Dan Deacon have taken the obvious route toward woot-woot sensory overload, filling their songs with hooky samples and maniacally propulsive beats that basically act as marionette strings for an audience that can’t help but move its arms and legs in appreciation.
Even in the more traditional realm of guitar/drum/bass rock, inciting the crowd to dance is seen more and more as a positive, even hip thing. But lest we be confused with the Pinks and Timberlakes of the world (we will always worry that we look ridiculous while dancing), we have to make the journey from our brain to our tail feather difficult. We need to be able to contemplate lyrics and time-signature changes and meaning; to gently stroke our artfully manicured mustaches before we can allow ourselves such base pleasures. But on Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective’s message seems to be, “Fuck all that.”
Nine albums and eight years in, it’s time to stop trying to figure out what the hell Animal Collective—vocalist/guitarist Avey Tare, percussionist/vocalist Panda Bear and knob-twiddler Geologist—is, and just enjoy the orgasmic rush of danceable rock. After all, hands are meant not to be jettisoned up in frustration at dead-end lyrics, but thrown in the air as if you just didn’t care.
From the gurgling heartbeat of “In The Flowers”—where a sampled, garbled voice seems to be saying “I’mna dance,” and Tare drunkenly warbles about longing to leave his body for the night—this is an album made for the waist down. Tare’s proclamation sets free the song’s pulsating body, a dreamy, floating chorus of voices and gently picked strings that glides on top of a booming, lock-step bass thud.
And nothing goes better with sweaty dancefloor gyrations than sex and love and ladies, themes that carry two of Merriweather’s best tracks, “My Girls” and “Summertime Clothes.” The former is a loose-limbed jumping jack of a fem-positive pop song that sounds somewhere between Eno and Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and The Spice Girls’ Spiceworld. It’s a musical chigger that burrows deep and won’t leave. “Summertime Clothes” is similarly addictive, a robo-tripping love song where—over a bouncing low end and weird harpsichord crescendos—Tare and Panda Bear’s harmonies sound absolutely Shins-esque.
Not everything is hearts and Ketamine, though. Merriweather’s middle gets a bit dirgey. The echo-chamber effect on “Daily Routine” borders on the boring; “Bluish” threatens to meander until Avey Tare’s killer chorus rips the Band-Aid off. And then there’s Animal Collective’s unquenchable penchant for experimentation. “Guys Eyes” recycles Panda’s voice what seems like a billion times until he’s singing over himself in 18-part harmony, finally validating all those once-puzzling Beach Boys comparisons. “Lion In A Coma” is built on a looped African jaw harp and an impossible-to-step-to 9/4 beat.
Interesting sign posts, for sure—the kind of thing Collective completists live for. But thankfully the band doesn’t forget the sampled mantra that started this whole journey: I’mna dance. As proof, they close the album with “Brothersport.” Shimmying its way to life in a clash of mechanized tribal drumming and Afrobeat-lite choral rounds that sound like Fela Kuti making love to his 27 robotic wives, the song soon dissolves into a racket of assembly-line noises before returning to rapid-fire three-part harmonies that finally culminate in an overblown explosion of big-beat rave. It’s the kind of epic track that probably depletes your serotonin levels while you listen.
But this is the new indie ethos: Don’t think; dance. Like Tare says on “My Girls,” “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things like my social stance, I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls.”
I have absolutely no idea what that means, and I don’t care—print it up, put it on a T-shirt and hand me that glow stick.