| POSTED BY: JOE PUGLISI
Merriweather Post Pavillion worried me. Animal Collective has always been a certain type of band, an audio exercise designed to turn instrumental expectation on its head. And yet, on MPP, they inexplicably created a handful of recordings as clear and enjoyable to people who write dissertations on Veckatimest as dudes who know one or two Vampire Weekend songs and still wear Abercrombie perfume. And my fears were confirmed -- a band that most wrote off as the weird kid who eats boogers and smells like patchouli on the playground was hailed as always being truly brilliant on every album retrospectively, by people who could not put their enjoyment of the first minute of "Peacebone" on Strawberry Jam into any other words besides "cool" and "noisey!" Animal Collective has more bandwagon fans than the New York Yankees. Animal Collective is the musical equivalent of Finnegan's Wake, and that's not a compliment. Most people who've seen the band live admit it's like watching freestyle garbage collecting.
I like Animal Collective. Rather, I like what Animal Collective is supposed to be -- a sonic digression, meant to confuse and challenge, better on paper than in person. But somewhere along the way, things got lost in the shitstream of critical backwash and this weird, 21st century hunger for ranking art, despite time periods and cultural context. Context is so important. What if Animal Collective is just a band of our time? Nothing more than a hip punchline for mainstream rock critics to make fun of the self-appointed musical elite sitting on their compostable thrones in East Williamsburg, smoking American Spirits and having "deep thoughts" about [insert adjective]-wave in 2011? Somehow these Animal art-doofuses stumbled their way into being representative of everything we will one-day hate about the early aughts and music. Mark my words.
Thus we've arrived at Centipede Hz, an album about which a widely-read music blog actually wrote "we need to accept the possibility of a record so excellent we don't understand it yet." Whoa. Is anyone else insulted? Unlike most humans, critics don't fear what they don't understand. They pretend to understand it.
Don't let the critics tell you this is the most important album of the year, or the decade, for any reason. That's shenanigans. Animal Collective is just fun for people who understand what musical conventions are, and enjoy a sound recording with a weird sense of direction. If it's not fun the first time, it's probably never going to get any better for you. It's not a brilliant deconstruction of our expectations of popular music, it's just a bunch of guys who like writing hooks and then putting up as many sonic smokescreens as possible to confuse the shit out of you. It's familiar music salad components with funky sound-dressing. Re-arrange some of these songs with nothing but a vocal line and an acoustic piano, and it'll probably sound just like Gotye.
If you enjoy Animal Collective, then good for you! But if you don't, I promise you're not missing some grand cultural shift that will manifest itself in thirty years, that you just don't understand because youre not smart enough. Music is about an emotional reaction, a gut-feeling. If this makes you want to jump out a window, I'm pretty sure youre not going to make "Father Time" your wedding song someday. And that's totally OK. "My Girls" is not representative of what this band is.
I like Centipede Hz, because it brings Animal Collective back down to the Earth they built for themselves. It's really weird sonically, like seriously weird, and kind of inaccessible to people unfamiliar with the band's previous work. It makes Congratulations sound like The Fame. And tracks like "Today's Supernatural" and "Rosie Oh" are fun and flighty. But the bloopy noises and psychedelic posturing are not so advanced that only music classes in the year 3000 can understand why their vocoder choices were so brilliant. This is not some sort of zeitgeist, it's just four dudes with serial killer pseudonyms who like space-noises and f-cking with electronics. And I hope they never change.