Upon hearing the first notes of Animal Kingdom’s album a couple things become clear: first, they are obviously British, and second, they have clear influences that come out of British alternative rock in the last decade that followed Radiohead. And somewhere between Radiohead, The Verve, and Coldplay, in a spot occupied by no-hit bands like Thirteen Senses, Embrace, and even Keane to an extent, sits Animal Kingdom. And much like all the latter bands, Animal Kingdom is quite capable of making a heckuva song, yet lacks a special hit and consistency.
This album is frontloaded, which is both an insult to the back half of the album and a full up compliment to the outstanding first few tracks. “The Wave” rides some excellent percussion work and a catchy chorus. The album’s strongest song “Get Away With It” uses a bit of a gritty synth groove and a strong falsetto. “Strange Attractor” keeps the strong tracks going, and provides the albums best single moment (“It only comes in waaaves!”), before the chorus swells like some of the better upbeat Coldplay songs out there (longtime readers know I consider Coldplay a great band, unlike many of my fellow indie bloggers). The biggest surprise of the album for me the first time was listening to “Straw Man”, a dreamier, softer piece, about as British as British can be. But it’s executed exceptionally well, serving to pull together such a good assortment of influences. Sure it’s probably just Radiohead’s “Codex” and “No Surprises” smashed together and sung by The Verve, but it’s your choice whether to damn them for this or just enjoy, because those are all good things.
The drawback of the album is that after “Straw Man”, only “White Sparks” is really memorable to any extent. A hazy beginning, breaks into a more uplifting chorus. It’s sonically interesting and has a forward-moving pace. An excellent track, but unfortunately surrounded a back half of pretty-okay-yet-ultimately-forgettable tracks. Still, if British alternative rock is your thing (it’s mine, so your not alone), Animal Kingdom is definitely worth a look.