WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2008|
For all that Montreal has given indie music (send your thank you notes to Arcade Fire, Chromeo, Islands, Wolf Parade, among others) Plants and Animal’s debut album Parc Avenue (Secret City Records) marks the first time I can remember hearing from one of the city’s hippy dippy inhabitants. Even before giving this one a whirl, all signs point towards Patchouli. First there’s that name of their’s. Kind of embraces everything, everywhere, you know? Like all there is to love about life, and the very essence of being. It’s all right there man! Plants and Animals…you dig? Then there is the matter of all those lovely folks on the cover…doing whatever it is they like to do with themselves in the woods. Last time these Sgt. Peppers got together they were staring back at me from Devendra Banhart’s Cripple Crow.
Sure assumptions of this kind are fun. But let’s not belittle our shaggy sounding subjects with wild eyed exaggerations, etc, etc. No, Plants and Animals deserve our praise from the get go. Immediately picked up by a choral blast from the heavens themselves, “Bye Bye Bye” is a wash in the kind of white boy soul worth reveling in. Think the Polyphonic Spree…but less. Other songs tread the same kind of course, albeit loosely. “Good Friend” moves along to the crisp pulse of a sinister shaker panned hard to the left and the analog pings of a lively snare to the right. It’s playful and bouncy; the kind of track that will probably make hippy haired head rollers out of all who happen upon it. Pin punch drunk orchestrations as well, and “Good Friend” treats the ears like the best of mates. So to does “Feedback in the Field”; a traveling song that motors along to crunchy chords and the sweet, syrupy wrangles of a wa-wa infused guitar.
Yet, despite the band’s obvious immediate appeal, don’t expect to hear Plants and Animals at their best until somewhere ‘round Parc Avenue’s halfway mark. Therein lies the real meat…err, meat flavored tofu?...of the band’s songwriting. Accompanying an electric guitar’s lickity split dance with equally snappy hi hat work, “Mercy” is brought to life around the thirty second mark. Testifying “Mercy! Mercy!” Spicer’s aided by a rousing round of soul singers and thick bouts of rusted brass. And if missed the first few times around? Expect a chorus of children to plainly spell it out. “M-E-R—C-Y”! It’s a foot stomping, carefree kind of frolic, eventually succumbing to half time hits from a drum kit most likely falling apart under the weight of such massive strokes…which is really OK. By the end of “Mercy”, one’s liable to feel exhausted. Then there’s “Early in the Morning”. With warm tones holding wide open spaces within their sonic frame, Southern vocal accompaniment, and small percussive elements that snap and crack like sticks under the acoustic footing, listeners might find they’ve waited half the album for this quiet wonder. Now it’s here. You dig? - David Pitz