Saturday, October 27, 2012

Animal Collective – “Centipede Hz”


To quote Pitchfork’s positive review, Centipede Hz “feels like someone throwing a burrito on your windshield” and Animal Collective “delivered a cluttered, abrasive album”. And these are compliments, apparently. Sorry folks, but as your resident music filter and recommender, take caution.

Now I understand how divided people are over Animal Collective. They seem to take a little thrill over being divisive. Their career trajectory let to some additional melodic elements on their breakthrough album Merriweather Post Pavilion. So yes, I’m one of those fans who adored “My Girls”, who thinks that “Summertime Clothes” is great, and “In the Flowers” was one of the best album openers he’s heard. I see the value in Animal Collective’s artistry and unique elements, but I do not see the value in noise and chaos for noise and chaos’ sake. On Merriweather Post Pavilion the industrial, glitchy elements served as a backdrop to the forefront melody on the best tracks. On Centipede Hz, the melody can’t escape from underneath the noise.

Only a couple of times is the album redeemed. The ever-present noise shifts to playing second fiddle to the songs on tracks like “Applesauce”, “Pulleys”, and “New Town Burnout”, but even the crescendo of noise almost takes over the latter by the end. For the most part the clutter that overwhelms the beginning of the album—the okay “Moonjock” and disaster “Today’s Supernatural”—persists in only slightly less obtrusive ways throughout. “Wide Eyed”? “Monkey Riches”? Painful. The unfortunate part is that interesting, developed, possibly good melodies exist like giant teases beneath the clanks.

There are two, yes, two, good songs on this album worth hearing. “Pulleys” grows out of its industrial base and develops into an actual song. “Applesauce” is by far the best song, using noise to contribute to the unique quality of the song without self-destructing.

I’m pretty tolerant of experimentalism and bands that want to try different approaches. Unfortunately Animal Collective seems determined to be so different that they turn their backs on what brought them new fans. And if that’s the case, then as one of those new fans who actually enjoys a touch of sonic pleasure instead of having chaos blasted into my earholes in the name of experimentalism, then their approach worked. And thus the rating.

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