Album Review

Centipede Hz

Centipede Hz

by Animal Collective


Domino
7 / 10
12th September 2012

Reviewed by Max Walker


It was always going to be difficult for Animal Collective to follow up on a seminal record like 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion. Hailed by many as the album of the year three years ago, the record made kids everywhere ditch their guitars and basses in favour of samplers and floor toms. It was a remarkable release, a crossover hit that introduced the experimentalists to the mainstream whilst still retaining the bulk of their die-hard fans. And in ‘My Girls’ they actually had a hit single and genuine “club banger”. Throughout all of 2009 it seemed that song was on high rotate constantly, you couldn’t go to a single bar or party without hearing it.

Fast forward to the present, both Noah ‘Panda Bear’ Lennox and Dave ‘Avery Tare’ Portner have both released new solo records and finally the release of Centipede Hz. First impressions put it in Strawberry Jam territory over anything else they’ve released. The opening tracks are clattering and energetic, unmistakably Animal Collective. Lead single ‘Today’s Supernatural’ is full of blipping rhythms and samples as well as Portner’s trademark manic vocal delivery. As the album continues the listener is struck with the usual task of picking out the hooks, the moments of release and psychedelic wonder the band has been known for over their last three records. But either the hooks aren’t there or they’re buried under so much aural clutter that they might as well not be there. Songs like Strawberry Jam’s ‘Fireworks’ or Feels’ ‘Did You See The Words?’ work so well because they balance the sonic madness with beautiful harmonies that seemingly creep in out of nowhere. Centipede Hz is all static and madness and hardly any song craft. ‘Father Time’ and ‘Monkey Riches’ have structures that work and combine at least a few elements of the band’s sound.

One other point is also apparent: why on earth, if you possessed one of the decade’s best male vocalists in Noah Lennox, would you not want him actually singing on most of the record? Dave Portner has always been the closest thing to a front man the band has, but Lennox has showed in recent years he is a far superior singer technically. The band tends to work best when two share the vocal duties because they both have their own unique style, one manic and primal, the other reminiscent of a pitch perfect Brian Wilson in his prime. But Lennox’s voice only appears on two tracks (‘Rosie Oh’ and ‘New Town Burnout’) in a leading capacity, and both songs are disappointing.

The Baltimore natives have again confounded their fans by creating a yang to their previous releases’ yin. Centipede Hz is a dense and anxious record, stuttering urban noise and polyrhythms populate it's tracks. Following Merriweather… Animal Collective were always going to do one of two things; either continue streamlining their new found ‘accessible’ direction or tack back into their erratic ways of old. They have done the decent thing (the latter) but the result is somehow frustrating.






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