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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