What happens when a band hits its peak? In the case of Animal Collective, the answer is reverting back to the past. The most obvious indication of going back to the old days is the return of Deakin, the band’s keyboardist/percussionist/sample-maker/electronics whiz. As a quartet, the band agreed to move back to its hometown of Baltimore, Maryland and write songs together.
This time around, Avey Tare grabbed the reins, supplying the overwhelming majority of vocals for the group’s newest studio release, Centipede Hz. With Tare leading the band, gone are the sparkling, smooth psych-pop gems that comprised the psych-rockers’ 2009 masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion. In their place lay jagged shards of screeching experimental rock, which are interesting in their own rite, but by no means beautiful.
At first it’s hard to digest the brash, schizophrenic sounds that encapsulate the record. The lead track, “Moonjock,” begins with jumbled, static-filled spoken word segments that sound like advertisements lost in the ether—as if someone was tuning a radio—and then startlingly crashes into an array of crunching instrumentation, followed by Tare’s raw, gruff vocal delivery, which oddly enough, is the piece that holds this song together. Though a bit jarring, his voice holds an appealing melody that leads the mess of frenetic, meandering music behind it. The song ends as it began, with atmospheric, static-drenched speaking searching for a frequency.
This segues into the album’s first single, “Today’s Supernatural.” Though still a bit jarring, this track possesses a catchy melody and dizzying synthesizers that slightly smooth out Tare’s growling voice as he screams, “Sometimes you’ve got to go get mad.”
From there, the record flows into one of two Panda Bear tracks, “Rosie Oh.” In true Panda Bear form, this tune is a bit more calming with a hint of beach-pop. His soothing vocals create a nice, relaxing break form Tare’s guttural howls. The album continues with ebbs and flows ranging from Deakin’s first vocal contribution (“Wide Eyed”) to Panda Bear’s underwhelming “New Town Burnout,” but Centipede Hz hits its high with “Monkey Riches.” Though the longest song on the record, clocking in at 6:47, the track holds its listener’s attention the entire time. “Makes me wonder how I even wrote this song / Does this not occur to almost everyone? / I make a monkey rich,” Tare laments, making it clear that Animal Collective’s exponentially growing success is not what the band intended when it formed. This sentiment grows greater in the album’s closer, “Amanita,” as Tare and Panda Bear simultaneously wail, “What have we done what have we done? / Fantasy is falling down.” This may currently be true for the band, but it has not fallen completely. And if any group can pick itself up again, it’s Animal Collective.Like us on Facebook at BestNewBands.com and KatrinaNattress and follow us on Twitter at @BestNewBandscom and @KatrinaNattress