Ever hear the one about the kid who learned how to fly a MQ-9 Reaper (that’s a plane) before learning to ride a bicycle? Yeah, me either, but I did hear the one about the Animal Collective album that every college freshman loved before digesting Remain In Light or Another Green World. Loved before they even heard it.
Okay, okay, let me steady myself. For starters, Merriweather Post Pavilion (a studio album named after an outdoor concert venue) is a perfectly good album that has many perfectly great moments. Is it a great album that warrants underground hysteria? Ehh … we’ll address the actual tunes later, I’m more so concerned with the surprising reception the record has seen. I find it difficult to believe that an album this complex, this strange, this abstract and, I’ll say it, this unlistenable has been met with such enthusiasm by so many young ears. Have our collective tastes really become so complex and sophisticated? Can we expect to hear “Bluish” at future wedding receptions? I’ll say no more on this subject, save for one final question for this Pitchfork-fueled world of sound: Do all these young listeners really like the music on Merriweather, or do they just like how special they feel while listening to the hip album of early 2009?
There have always been albums like this. Obvious ones like Bitches Brew and the abovementioned Remain In Light come to mind – even Radiohead’s still recent Kid A. The best thing about this particular eccentric record (I overheard someone describe it as “Pet Sounds playing through a dishwasher”) is that you can’t tell if the artists behind the music are more so musicians or just dudes with crazy ideas, powerful computers and deep record collections. The sound here is much more produced than played, even prompting some publications to call it an official “electronic” album, rather than the “indie rock” and “experimental rock” tags the band has seen in the past. But don’t get confused, this is oddly organic sounding music we’re talking about. Futuristic, sure, but still organic.
Everything sounds mushy – almost gooey to the ears. Remember when you were told not to mix your Play-Doh as a kid, but did anyhow? What did you get? Brown Play-Doh, right? Merriweather is just that, brown Play-Doh. The fellas behind the Collective – led by David “Avey Tare” Portner and Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox – mix so many influences, sounds, genres and even production styles on this record that their product proves itself to be more so a clever and unique packaging of ideas than a collection of songs. A very 21st Century record, indeed. As wild and weird as past Animal Collective albums have been, Merriweather is their strangest and most complex release yet that actually works as music (as opposed to experiments-on-record), melting through speakers as an artful progression of the sound 2007’s great Strawberry Jam presented.
Buy hey, misplaced love of college freshman everywhere be damned, the Animals make their crazy ideas work in a way that sets new standards for books – rarely has an album this challenging and original seen such widespread comsumption. Held together with hooks, memorable (if usually nonsensical) lyrics and lingering backdrops that utilize pulsing loops and heavily layered production that melts from one idea to another in surprising ways, these tunes will embrace your inner-most art start after enough listens. Like Panda Bear’s 2007 hype gatherer, Person Pitch, Merriweather Post Pavilion is a complex cut-and-paste epic that, if given enough time and heard by seasoned ears, should not only sound wholly original, but also be a tolerable – maybe even rewarding – listen. Ground breaking and listenable – that’s hard to do these days. Just ask the noise band kids and, well, anyone who has released a high-concept album since OK Computer was born.