In 2009 Animal Collective released Merriweather Post Pavilion, an album hailed as “one of the landmark American albums of the century so far” by some, and one that drew the group “serious” comparisons to the Beatles by others. The fact of the matter, however, was that with the exception of the track “My Girls”, Merriweather simply applied a bit of polish to the Barrett-ian psychedelic freak outs that the band is best known for and successfully passed it off as a serious effort rather than the infinite monkeys let loose in a recording studio approach that could best describe the bulk of their releases. Out this week, Centipede Hz, carries on in that tradition and while the members of the Collective seem to be learning, mellowing even, they could clearly still benefit from a healthy dose of Ritalin.
The most frustrating thing about Centipede Hz, and Animal Collective in general, is that somewhere floating underneath all of the blips and whirs lie songs that, if given any other thought than “whoa man” in their creation, could develop into something that would be worth talking about. Seemingly content to follow the law of zero restraint, the songs on Centipede Hz are buried under layer upon layer upon layer of off-key synth blasts, horn bleats and whatever else could be thrown in for track after headache inducing track. It’s not just that the group displays zero restraint on the album’s eleven songs; it’s that they seem to have a healthy disrespect for the material that they themselves have created.
Employing all the subtlety of a sonic bulldozer, opening track “Moonjock” simply beats the listener over the head with a barrage of carnival worthy synth rolls and “edgy” underwater vocals. The trend continues with “Today’s Supernatural”, “Mercury Man” and pretty much every other song on the album. But remove all of the noise and songs like “Rosie Oh” and “Father Time” are reduced to pretty good emulations of a latter day 311. That may be fine to enjoy along with some recreational chemistry in the dorm room, but when was the last time you found yourself seriously discussing the intricacies of “Amber” versus, say, “A Day In The Life?”
To their credit, the accessibility of the music this time out hints that there may come a day when the quartet from Baltimore – Deakin aka Josh Dibb rejoined bandmates Avey Tare (David Portner) , Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Geoloigist (Brian Weitz) after a three year break for Centipede Hz – is able to dig deep and produce something that appeals to both their oddball sensibilities and can be considered anything more than a one note freakout fest. The effort is admirable, but as their catalog deepens it only become more and more evident that the group’s bag of tricks is a fairly shallow one. And while that trick might satisfy those who are sustained by a healthy diet of LSD and overstimulation, it does little if anything to draw in those looking for a little more weight in their music - except maybe prompt them to ask Animal Collective to politely get the f$%# off of their lawn.