Sunday, 16 September 2007

too cuckoo

I'll make no bones: I'm new to Animal Collective. Preceding single 'Peacebone' drew me to 'Strawberry Jam's Monday release. Impressions on first listen: spasmodic, rousing as ‘Peacebone’ escalates to a climax somewhere between screamo and ambient. Then all bubbling and creaking contraptions as the fantastic mashed-Dylan-esque ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ insists to an alchemist’s playground backdrop before ‘Chores’ reverts from bashed-out skit of intent with childlike vocal nuances to urban hymn, all the time sounding like the Beach Boys played at a deranged speed. It goes on.

For all its seemingly chaotic components, ‘Strawberry Jam’s clamour is cohesive. The album’s concoction of acoustic and synthesised is constant, as is its toddler bawl that, at its best, courts strikingly tender moments in their curious musical language: Evolving vocals wrench ‘Cuckoo Cuckoo’ from cute to terrifying, expressed in utterly surreal English-as-a-foreign-language tones. On elegiac ‘Derek’ playful innocent sounds are juxtaposed against a tribute to a man’s sheltie that becomes contrasted against a relationship dogged by need. The album’s two climatic tracks even recall ‘War’-era U2, though a U2 etched with typewriter stomps in tribal rhythms!

Despite maintaining an impressive fluency, ‘Strawberry Jam’s characteristics achieve mixed results: the switch to screaming is raucously liberating on ‘Peacebone’, yet becomes infuriating on ‘For Reverend Green’, a song crippled by its overload of trying vocal hooks.

Animal Collective convey an overall serenity in their individual warped world; ‘Strawberry Jam’, despite earnest notions of angst, is ultimately reassured in this serenity, a work beautifully at ease. As a glorious entire I cannot say a word against it, except that, bar its startlingly fantastic bookends (below), I can’t listen to it.

Thanks to jehan for introducing me and inviting me up here, puts me in mind of a song...

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