2009 was the year of Animal Collective. If you somehow managed to avoid at least a second glance of the eye-twisting optical illusion artwork of Merriweather Post Pavillion that was plastered on every blog in the history of the internet, then you must live on another planet. The record was inescapable and for every writer or fan proclaiming its brilliance to the heavens was another smug asshole dismissing it as “hipster-bullshit”.
I was part of the fanboy camp. MPP drew me in completely into its intergalactic spiral and I'll swear to my grave that it's one of the finest pieces of music ever created. If I were getting too big for my boots I'd go so far as to call it the 21st century equivalent of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Animal Collective had created pop music at its most ethereal, weird and beautiful and I'd never heard anything like it.
For every force there is an equal and opposite reaction. And so now in 2012 we are presented Centipede Hz. the mirror image of Merriweather Post Pavillion. Where the 2009 album provided enough breathing room to fill a solar system, Centipede Hz. is almost suffocated by a barrage of strange sounds and samples. Having seen the band play a large chunk of the album already at All Tomorrow's Parties last year, and listened to and enjoyed the subsequent bootlegs, I've had time to get to grips with their approach to this record and I knew I wouldn't be disappointed by the quality of songs, it was just the production in danger of falling flat.
It sometimes feels as if the real songs are buried underneath the haze. 'New Town Burnout' is an example of this, with Noah Lennox's gentle tones eventually drowned out by fuzz and on 'Amanita', there is a great pop song in their somewhere but the bonkers production is at times just too harsh to make it enjoyable.
Where MPP represented the quiet moments of reflection where we are alone with our thoughts and fears, Centipede Hz. makes sure you have no chance for calm and instead provides an interpretation on the perpetual barrage of information, sights and sounds we have to deal with on a daily basis. While this claustrophobic approach can work, it's also downright annoying at times, 'Rosie Oh' is my least favourite track on the album and suffers most heavily from this over-sampled over-produced attack.
But with all these things considered, I really like this album, it's catchy and when the crazy noises on show become a bit clearer, it's genuinely fantastic. 'Today's Supernatural' lolls joyfully about, while 'the Deakin led Wide Eyed' is a dreamy psychedelic trudge. Elsewhere, 'Monkey Riches' and 'Mercury Man' fizz and whirr like machines in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
Is it as good as Merriweather Post Pavillion? No. But it's certainly a lot more fun to listen to. I find it heavily danceable when the beats are audible and it's going to be one I enjoy for quite a while yet. If you weren't signed up to Camp Animal Collective after hearing the last record then Centipede Hz. certainly isn't the way in. But for those of us already around the campfire it's another great, if somewhat less breathtaking addition to a stellar track record.
Posted: Fri 14 September 2012