I think it was listening to Animal Collective albums that were responsible for my complete diversion from the album format. No Animal Collective album has ever been worth listening cover-to-cover: I suppose the preceding Feels was the best from an album perspective because the bad stuff was mostly reliant on atmosphere and thus easy to ignore. Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion are both the half-killer/half-filler types, I don’t understand the album format purists who feel like it’s an unspoken rule that they must listen to an album front-to-back when I can just program a great EP out of this (using tracks 1-4-5-7-9) and hear that twice in the same amount of time and derive more pleasure from it.
The stuff that I’ve left off my Ipod until they start making them with bigger carrying capacities than 160 gigabytes (on that note, that’s false advertising, since a good chunk of that is unusable): “Unsolved Mysteries” predates the really horrid stuff from Centipede Hz by completely trading melody (the tenth time Avey Tare tries to sing “Jack the Ripper” activates my gag reflex – left thumb squeezed or not) for cluttering noises in an illusion of complexity (a bunch of sounds like sound like lightsabers being activated from Star Wars). The only melody in sight on Avey Tare’s other offering, “Cuckoo Cuckoo,” is the piano – which we’ve heard better used as a texture on stuff like “Banshee Beat.” The rest just lurches in annoying stop-start quiet-loud motions for two minutes longer than it should have. “Chores” is passable, but once Panda Bear had figured out the melody of the chorus, he really couldn’t be bothered (or maybe just creatively exhausted after the slightly better but still imperfectPerson Pitch) to flesh it out into a song, so he just repeats and “If I” over and over. No shit, “If I” happens forty-five times! At least Merriweather Post Pavillion’s repeated line in “Summertime Clothes” was worth hearing because of the sunny and satisfying “Don’t cool off…I like your warmth” conclusion – nothing of the sort here. And “#1” is at first, a decent imitation of pre-popular electronic music for kids unfamiliar with the genre, but like “Cuckoo Cuckoo,” goes on for way too long.
I noted that Person Pitch was important in Animal Collective’s discography because it marked a point in their discography where the band started moving away from the silly abstract – ahem – bullshit (“Your poor intestines can’t deny” or “My hands were happy to treat you like a brother”) and towards the positive rarities that make Merriweather Post Pavilion so charming. You get some of that here, “And I can’t lift you up, my mind is tired […] But I know I’ve got you” (“Fireworks”) and the entirety of “Winter Wonder Land.” “If you don’t believe in happiness / Then don’t believe in happiness / Don’t believe in happiness, but then you might be down?” Wonderful. And I quite like the way Noah Lennox yells out “But inside I’m okay!” like a ray of sunshine after the mostly formless opening verse in the latter. Meanwhile, they manage to stick a silly couplet, “’Grab your peckers,’ that’s what he told us / Me and Mike looked at each other like ‘Whoa, what was that then?’” (trust me, it’s not just you and Mike who were confused) into closer “Derek,” an otherwise touching song about how they should’ve treated their household pet better, “Should have been so much more willing / To help out with all the things / That a dog like him needed.” But even the other half ofStrawberry Jam that retains their psychedelic-lyrics-for-psychedelia’s-sake aren’t bad. Lines like “I was a jugular vein in a juggler’s girl / I was supposedly leaking the most interesting colors,” “I bet the monster was happy when we made him a maze,” “Well I start in a hose and I’ll end in a yard,” “Be an artist, but are you anything?”, “You find out you can’t ask a baby to cry” (all found in “Peacebone”) or “Will only be your friend if he touches your breast” and “Bulimic vegetarian wins weight contest” (both from “For Reverend Green”) are easily the band at their most quotable-because-they’re-good.
Musically, though, there’s plenty of good things happening. Both the aforementioned “Fireworks” and “Winter Wonder Land” (this one sounds great while you’re walking around on the first day of snow in the winter) vie for a spot on Animal Collective’s list of best melodies, and the military drums carrying the former is one of the few times percussion does more than just keep time on the album; the other is on the second half of “Derek,” where it turns from a vocals based tune into a tribal jam that briefly recalls their earlier works. Though “Peacebone” (love the final “bonefish” sample that interjects the jaunting “peacebone”’s in its outro) and “For Reverend Green” (probably my favorite Animal Collective song, actually) are less concerned with melodies, both work thanks to the energy and different styles of both vocalists; Avey Tare screaming his way into Panda Bear’s falsetto. Quite love how the singing of the title’s words turn into screams in “For Reverend Green”’s second half before returning to the infectious wordless hook right after (oh which, “Winter Wonder Land” has a great one too).
Final word: the “inside” choruses of “Peacebone” seem sexual to me, which wouldn’t surprise me considering previous songs in their discography (ie. “Mouth Wooed Her”), but a reallyimmature kind of sexuality. It amazes me then, that the band would go from this to “Bluish” in less than two years.