Normally, I have no fucking time for groups that refer to themselves as “collectives” because all bands are collectives. Calling your band a “collective” is just a pretentious way of either 1) just saying you’re in a band and/or 2) saying that you have trouble keeping your line-up consistent. Having made half-hearted (and massively failed) attempts to like Animal Collective in my days as a Tower Records employee in Boston, there was pretty much no way on earth I was gonna listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Unless, you know, it was a really slow start to the new year and I was really really jonesing for new music to listen to.
For those of you who don’t know, Animal Collective is a band… wait. In fact, I’m going to do us all a favor and refer to them as Animal Pack or Animal Band from now on since they’re a band and collectives of animals are just packs anyway. Or flocks or gaggles or… well, whatever. Anyway, Animal Band is a band of pretentious “avant-garde” musicians (it’s easy to hate them on those grounds alone) who make somewhat psychedelic electronic-ish music. Oh, and they all have bollocksy nicknames like Panda Bear.
As you might guess, Pitchfork has a Sufjan-sized boner for this band. (Had a great birthday coversation with my pal Zac this weekend wherein he pointed out, “You can basically write an algorithm that would predict Pitchfork scores.”) Pitchfork hailed Merriweather Post Pavilion as Flock of Animals’ “most accessible” album yet. And I guess it must be, because I’m not entirely unglad that I own it.
The thing is bloated with pretension and excess but the great/infuriating thing about Animal Pack is that there are some great melodies to be had in there too. Sometimes, the good music outweighs the bad for an entire song, as on “My Girls,” and the truly outstanding “Summertime Clothes,” (you can tell this band is from Baltimore becuase there’s a line that goes “smell that trash.” ‘Tis a dirty city, Baltimore). “Daily Routine” is a meandering song with some pretty bits and that’s basically what you’re in for with Merriweather Post Pavilion. Whether or not you like the album depends on whether or not you find the really indulgent bits interesting (I find this to be true for a lot of electronic music). Most of the tracks are four minutes long or longer and where the band/flock/pack/pride allows their obvious melodic knack to dominate those four minutes, the rewards are pretty good. “Taste” doesn’t really cough up its melodic fruits until its almost over, for instance. And it’s followed by “Lion in a Coma,” which is mostly pretty annoying. Merriweather Post Pavilion is a mixed bag, then, a salad of melody and douchebaggery. The question is, do you pick out the douchebaggery and enjoy the melody or do you send the salad back and tell your server, “I ordered this without douchebaggery”? Maybe it depends on your mood; but, if you’ve had a bad day and are just hungry for some melody, you’re probably not gonna wanna wrestle with Merriweather Post Pavilion.
I reckon that, if you loved Panda Bear and His Animal Herd before, you’ll continue to love them and if you didn’t, Merriweather Post Pavilion is not going to change your mind much. If you’ve never heard them, it’s not a bad way to dip your toe in their waters. I’ve made it through the album three times now, and there are songs I actually like (“Summertime Clothes” is really awesome, as I said) and I don’t despise any one part of this album in particular. Animal Troupe is a very pretentious band that has, in the past, made unbearable music and is currently taking steps toward making bearable and sometimes even beautiful music. I’m sure there are people who genuinely love everything these guys do, but I’m equally sure there are people who name-check them when trying to put on an air of indie sophistication. But we here at Bollocks! don’t judge a band by the assholes who love them; we judge bands on the music which is why I can give Merriweather Post Pavilion an enthusiastic shrug, set my player to shuffle, and probably forget the entire album except for “Summertime Clothes.”