I remember the days when Animal Collective would whirl me along in their otherworldly tornado when I put my headphones on. Remember “Leaf House”? Those two-and-a-half minutes of perfection? I do.
And “The Purple Bottle”? The formless wonder-pop of Feels? Remember when Avey Tare and Panda Bear would bedazzle you with lyrics that seemed like a task to decipher? I remember.
If Merriweather Post Pavilion is any indication of the Baltimore natives’ future aspirations, those days of unconventional song structure and general madness are long gone. On Merriweather, Animal Collective offer us their most predictable album yet; but rather than disappointing, they place a very necessary lid on the bottle of joy that they’ve been pouring out consistently since they started making music way back in high school.
And I like lids. Lids are a good idea, but they’re only little pieces of manipulated plastic made to contain what you’re storing. While lids may be fun, their function still exists.
i wondered: could Animal Collective continue the experimental process forever without finding their niche? Would it be better if they denied their own wishes to appease the public? If that was true, at some point the collective would certainly run out of ideas and leave us with a few half-assed albums, so it’s probably for the best that they wrote a few decent songs and recorded Merriweather in accordance with what they want. They had to cap it off somewhere.
Now, this is one hell of a lid. Let me tell you that much. I mean, it’s Animal Collective! I can’t remember a time when I’ve been disappointed with a release by my animal friends. And this record really is Animal Collective. Listening through, I can’t help but think: “They would make this.” The instrumentals are as sonic and delicious as ever, and the vocals are as…Animal Collective-y as you could ever want. “My Girls” is a prime example, opening with spacey keyboard trios and progressing almost infinitely with Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s tag-team vocals. But it’s exactly where they eclipse with brilliance that Animal Collective’s biggest problem becomes all too noticeable: this lid doesn’t have very much to say over its 55-minute length.
When I said ‘almost infinitely’, I meant it. There exists roughly five and three-quarters minutes of “My Girls” on Merriweather, and its verses can be counted on one hand. Yet, somehow they manage to sing for the song’s entirety. By the fifth time, “Is it much to admit I need a solid soul and the blood I bleed?” comes up, it’s hard to take any of the words Animal Collective has for us seriously. It isn’t even as if these heavily repeated lyrics are up-to-par. “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things like a social status.” They thought that important enough to repeat six times?
Remember the days when looking up Animal Collective lyrics meant being constantly blown away with what you were reading? Merriweather Post Pavilion shows us an Animal Collective that has gained a taste for the less poetic. On “Guys Eyes,” Panda Bear expresses the lyrical profundity of “I really want to show to my girl that I want her,” with overwhelmingly inventive instrumentals in the background. The contrast is almost painful.
But there are still some really wonderful songs thrown into Merriweather. “Brother Sport” is easily the most fun song on the record. It also happens to be the most repetitious, but in this case the island-beat ecstasy follows through effectively enough for an exceptional listening experience. “In the Flowers” evolves continually until it’s everything you ever wanted from an Animal Collective song. Avey Tare’s breathy vocals weakly join hands with Panda Bear’s to glide eloquently over a battlefield of percussion. “To hold you in time,” they sing, it could not be a more perfect introduction to the album.
Don’t get me wrong: this record is nowhere near terrible. But this is not Animal Collective’s masterpiece. Not even close. So, what’s the verdict on this lid? Is it one of those Pepsi-Cola lids with (nothing against the brand) the lame activation code and the unpleasant plastic, or is it a Snapple lid, with one of their maybe-true-but-always-entertaining statements? It seems to me that Merriweather is best viewed as an extra in Animal Collective’s catalogue, something for the Collective enthusiast in need of more. While it works out well that this extra gives the listener ample closure to what may become known as the most experimental period in Animal Collective’s history, I wouldn’t consider this record to be anything of importance in their discography. I mean, come on; it’s only a lid.
Label: Domino Records
Release Date: Jan 13, 2009
- In the Flowers
- My Girls
- Also Frightened
- Summertime Clothes
- Daily Routine
- Guys Eyes
- Lion in a Coma
- No More Runnin
- Brother Sport
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