Plumbiferous Media

Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective

Jan 18th 2009
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Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal CollectiveAnimal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Score: 41

Ani­mal Col­lec­tive is a very spe­cif­ic sort of band - they’re an exper­i­men­tal, avant-garde, indie music col­lec­tive with a legion of loy­al fans. Their newest album (their eighth full-length), Mer­ri­weath­er Post Col­lec­tive, has been the dar­ling of the crit­ics thus far. We are, as usu­al, hap­py to buck the trend.

Mer­ri­weath­er’s lyrics are filled with the sur­re­al, image-laden dream­scape you’d expect from a band like Ani­mal Col­lec­tive. Occa­sion­al­ly obvi­ous mean­ing aris­es, but for the most part the lyrics seem to utter­ly ignore real­i­ty. The lack of imme­di­ate mean­ing means that it’s prob­a­bly best that the lyrics are very hard to pick out. There’s real­ly not much what­so­ev­er to them - they’re repet­i­tive and essen­tial­ly sub­stance­less. But hey, they sound good. And Tare is just the man to be singing them. The oth­er­world­ly drone of his voice seems to become anoth­er instru­ment among the soar­ing sounds of the album, but it’s hard to com­plete­ly shake the feel­ing that a more sol­id vocal pres­ence might help dis­tin­guish the tracks more. The trans-album strand that the vocals cre­ate just helps to exas­per­ate the prob­lem that the album has with vari­a­tion, in that it does­n’t real­ly exist to enough of a degree. This makes the con­stant drone of Tare’s voice more of an issue than it would be oth­er­wise, as it’s eas­i­ly around for long enough to become annoying.

Mer­ri­weath­er Post Pavil­ion shows clear instru­men­tal intent. Their first track begins with a shrill waver­ing note, not unlike that of a par­tic­u­lar­ly angry bee, but that is then cut off, and in its place begins a fair­ly cheery tune. Yet the notes main­tain just a slight amount of this shrill qual­i­ty, seem­ing­ly to show how a good thing is always taint­ed. “Also Fright­ened” paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. It takes sequences sim­i­lar to those in the pre­vi­ous tracks, and then frag­ments it, choos­ing only to play a few of the notes. The track builds, steadi­ly includ­ing more of what could have been a com­plete piece, occa­sion­al­ly devolv­ing into chaos, yet always return­ing to one of the lines. What­ev­er its mean­ing, it’s very well done. In fact, in each track, the musi­cians take what could have been a very strong instru­men­tal line, and then use some quirk to make it even stronger.

These instru­men­tals could have made for an amaz­ing album; the vocals could have as well, but the two belong on sep­a­rate albums. Look­ing again at “Also Fright­ened,” the frag­ment­ed instru­men­tals are com­plete­ly over­shad­owed by the con­tin­u­ous, unmov­ing singing, ruin­ing the entire track. It’s as if a few mem­bers were put in charge of design­ing an instru­men­tal album, and the rest of the band was giv­en the num­ber of tracks, and had to come up with track names and vocals. The two halves, of course, col­lide in a colos­sal train wreck. The prob­lem with Mer­ri­weath­er Post Pavil­ion is not that the mem­bers of Ani­mal Col­lec­tive did not think before they played; it is that Ani­mal Col­lec­tive did not think before it played.

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