MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2009|
There isn't a whole lot to say about Merriweather Post Pavilion that hasn't already been said. As a product of a hyperactive blog culture, the latest full-length album from Brooklyn/Baltimore based Animal Collective is as divisive an offering as they come. On one hand, you have the obsessives who approach every Animal Collective related project with wide-eyed acclaim and suffocating enthusiasm, while on the other side you have the tunnel vision pundits who hold firm that the band and all its byproducts are a vacuous representation of a vampiric hype culture. However, to say that the answer lies somewhere in between would be way too easy-- the truth is, Merriweather Post Pavilion is an accurate representation of both sides of the argument with very little wiggle room in between. In short, yes, it is overhyped beyond reasonable measure, however, it's also very, very good, and is without a doubt worthy of the polarizing dialogue it inspires.
Merriweather Post Pavilion is a bit closer to the solo outing of Panda Bear's album Person Pitch than it is to say, the band's 2007 offering Strawberry Jam. The album, on the most superficial of levels, is a hypnotic progression of loops that flutter between frightening, cheerful and carnivalistic, oftentimes within the same track. The harmonies of vocalists Avey Tare and Panda Bear work to fill different niches - Avey Tare's style offers energy and attack, pacing the songs along with a distinctive vocal cadence. On the flip side, Panda Bear's vocals resemble a Beach Boys era Brian Wilson, providing fill and symphony over MIDI loops that at times almost border on minimalism. Coachella leaked tracks like "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes" are catchy enough to almost be considered poppy, but somehow manage to get by cloaked in their own oddness. "In the Flowers" speaks of the expansive nature of the group, and how they're able to evoke distinctive feelings across the emotional spectrum with nothing more than some minor piano chords and Fruity Loop handclaps.
The thing is, Animal Collective are everything that avant-garde musicians should be. They make music that's sophisticated, audacious and robust, and Merriweather Post Pavilion is no exception. Regardless of your opinion about them, the fact of the matter is Animal Collective are able to craft albums that are unlike anyone else's. Their expectations are indisputably loftier than any other band out there (with the exception of Thom Yorke and crew), and for good reason. Merriweather Post Pavilion is overrated if only because they're good enough to be in that Radiohead vicinity of musicianship. They're cursed with the potential to do the impossible and make music that could quite possibly satisfy everyonecritics and pundits alikeand anything less than that will be left to the vulture-like masses to be voraciously consumed before being surgically picked apart. - chris gayomali