Album Review: Animal Collective ‘Centipede Hz’
Few bands are able to realize mainstream success with a formula as unlikely as that of Animal Collective, who have defied all expectation now for over a decade. It’s a world of wanton extravagance, but also careful measure and calculation– at least when at its best. While it shouldn’t be surprising, with the level of talent in the band, that they’ve made it work more often than not, it is no less a little confounding. With the return of founding member Deakin and his bag of tricks after taking Merriweather Post Pavillion off, Centipede Hz is Animal Collective at full power.
Their sound can be a little too abrasive for some tastes, which is fine, because there is often musical brilliance beneath what can appear to be an intentional ugliness. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be, though, and Animal Collective falters when the noise is generated too much at random and for its own sake. They have at times flirted dangerously with self-indulgence.
‘Moonjock’ is a solid warm-up for fans of the band, and the perfect warning shot for people who aren’t going to like it very much. It’s a loud and cacophonous song, but it has a cool, happy feeling, offering a full serving of either agony or joy depending on your own slant. The band has a very big sound on this record.
The album quickly becomes more theatrical, which I think is a style well suited to Animal Collective. Their best songs have a grand and epic feeling, like an angry, schizophrenic fairytale. ‘Today’s Supernatural’ and ‘Applesauce’ are two early songs which really exemplify that motif.
The middle of the record calms quite a bit. ‘Applesauce’ continues with the fairytale theatrics, but it’s a bit more stripped down– which is sort of a funny phrase to use to describe anything on an Animal Collective album– and as a result it’s a lot easier to take in on the first listen, which becomes a surprising strength of the album after about the fifth song.
‘New Town Burnout’ is a pretty straightforward track, with only a little bit of excess. It’s as close as these guys will probably come to ambient music, and on that level it works extremely well to build an atmosphere that is deeper than the usual, more primal emotional cues this kind of music evokes.
The final few tracks of Centipede Hz submerge into an aquatic mode, feeling watery and dreamlike. ‘Pulleys’ is the strongest and the standout of this pack, and a really beautiful song. It goes without saying that most of these songs would probably be better stoned, but there are a few here which might have you seeing things regardless.
Animal Collective is a band which sometimes makes me feel old, because more than once I have caught myself throwing up my hands and shouting (at my cat), “it’s just noise!” If that sounds like something you might say, the start of this record won’t appeal to you at all, but the second half of Centipede Hz is gorgeous, textured and rich music, which I think can be enjoyed by almost anyone.
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Image Courtesy of Domino