After a string of moderately successful LPs, Animal Collective broke through the underground in 2009 with the widely acclaimed album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Fans and critics alike refuse to stop comparing the new album Centipede Hz and its artwork to the previous hit.
NME found a particularly hateful post from an angry U.K.-based fan:
“Centipede Hz is a cluttered incoherent mess, a sub-MGMT slab of self-regarding weirdness. Even the artwork isn’t as cool as Merriweather . . . ”
But doesn’t every rock snob love to be the person that says, “Sorry, but I’m just into their early albums – they’re much more organic,” or “I liked them before they signed to a major label, it was raw back then . . . .
Yes, yes, yes – that sounds very cool dropped into casual conversation.
However, I choose to review this album based on its own merits, not by comparison to past releases.
There are so many new components that this album has – the biggest being that they recorded it all together in their hometown in Baltimore, Maryland, with all original members, Iicluding Josh “Deakin” Dibb, who hadn’t recorded with the band since the Strawberry Jam album in 2007.
Previous writing was done via email as all members were spread across the globe either raising families or being knee-deep in side projects, the most prominent being Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear persona, whose last album Tomboy was produced by seminal shoe-gaze god, Pete Kember of Spacemen 3.
Merriweather‘s producer Ben Allmen returned for the boys’ ninth studio album, so there is a familiar feel that resonates with seasoned fans.
Lennox said: “We knew that what we were doing on Centipede Hz was not an instant Merriweather and that is going to be harder for people to get their heads around.”
Once the listener head does begin to come around, the Collective’s post-apocalyptic magic is instantly felt, from the Van Dyke Parks-infused track ‘Rosie Oh’ to Deakin’s main contribution, ‘Wide Eyed’, where a shimming layer of vocals calls out:
“Though I’m overwhelmed at times / I am less afraid of change.”
One finds oneself drowning in an electro-infused fish tank, grasping for thin hooks as they float by.
With no immediate single, the album as a whole is one long trip through childhood backroads where the album was recorded.
Needless to say, each instalment from the Collective is an artistic expression of where they are creatively and should be taken as such.
As they move, change, and grow, a true fan takes their humanity in stride.