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Obligatory Merriweather Post Pavilion Post

January 12, 2009


So have been listening to the dodgy vinyl rip of Merriweather Post Pavilion since boxing day or so and I’m developing my opinion; although it is still pretty hard to take “My Girls” off of repeat and listen to the rest. First of all, what a build up. I don’t know how much of it was really premeditated/purposely exacerbated but while Bloc Party, Gnarls Barkley, The Raconteurs and etcetera all tried to “do a Radiohead” last year, with most albums not doing all that much, Animal Collective went the exact opposite tack and found a new way of utilising the internet’s culture of leaked albums, piracy and hype. Starting with a gimmick meme for an album cover, giving hundreds of lazy bloggers an easy post, and tours showing off their new live set-up/prowess/willingness to play songs people actually know, they then sat back and watched as songs leaked, inadvertent or otherwise. The record company threatening legal action, responses to and fro from the parties concerned, Bradford lending his two cents and etcetera has resulted in an almost constant presence online leading up to the release, pushing anticipation high and drumming it into curious sleepers that they should check out this album/band. Then to put on a release party on Christmas Eve, knowing it will leak on Christmas day is great, of course. I don’t know if other people feel the same way, but that the leak is a muddy vinyl rip kind of encourages me to actually go buy the physical thing when it comes out, downloading it twice just feels a bit wrong. But that hasn’t been the main point of the saga; the long period waiting for this release and the hunger for the leak and all the attendant coverage has surely driven awareness of the band up significantly and this will inevitably convert into more fans. It doesn’t hurt that the textured, electronic pop that Animal Collective have become such figureheads of is starting to grow in popularity and that this is their most accessible moment yet, but the way a small, cultish band releasing their ninth full-length turned the non-leaking of their music into a groundswell of hype and free press and then to a genuine event is pretty phenomenal.

Of course, none of this would really matter if the album wasn’t any good. And after Strawberry Jam who knew what was likely to happen. The band had gone off in an interesting direction and negotiated it fairly well, but the jumble of moods and the overbearing nature of the songs felt like a a misstep, prompting some even to predict a split, particularly in the face of Person Pitch. But here they take Strawberry Jam‘s twisted, electronic sound palette and tie it to Feels‘ constant barrage of hooks and mellower energy. There are the processed drones, the rapidly arpeggiated synths, all the crazy background noises and the big drums, whether tribal or elctronic, but it all feels well harnessed and necessary. Nothing is oversold and nothing feels tossed off. The sequencing is a bit more obvious as well, beginning with the drawn out ambient noise of opener “In The Flowers” eventually stomping away in triumph, then bleeding into the truly sublime “My Girls”, a big, unstoppable juggernaught of synthesizers, harmonies and bellowed “ohs”, that feels like it could go on forever. “Also Frightened” is an obvious casualty as the next track, medium paced and featuring a woozy third part, but its well paced pop structure keep the listener convinced. From there the first half races through three upbeat songs featuring big synth bass, some familiar Animal Collective texture on top and a pile of buzzing vocal melodies. They are almost conventional songs despite all the strange noises melting and clicking around the edges. Only “Daily Routine” strays from this sense of pop, with its extended drop off becoming one of the band’s most effective ambient/slow-core moments.

Side two is a bit slower, as they tend to do, and although it never quite gets to the pace of “Bees” there is at least a bit more quirk, with “Taste” and “Lion In A Coma” both more lopsided and odd. Unfortunately, these are probably the weakest songs on the album, with both of them losing their way half-way through. The album quickly finds itself again however with the exquisite “No More Runnin” an assured testament to how they have developed the use of space within their multi-layered sound and also their song writing chops. From there they close in a similar manner to Feels, with the much praised, upbeat “Brother Sports”, another joyous, assured thrash through hook after killer hook.

While there is already much talk of this being album of the year, it sometimes comes across as another in a line of very hyped albums (see: In Rainbows, Dear Science, Andorra) that take a decidedly cleaner, softer and friendlier approach to a recognisable sound, taking less risks but delivering in terms of cohesiveness, pace and catchiness. These albums are hard to fault and very easy to like but probably will not define an era/experience/band’s career. Time will tell if Merriweather Post Pavilion is a merely a pleasant, accomplished diversion that doesn’t quite measure up to AC’s more experimental moments, or if it is something that will see the band blow-up/officially usher in the rise of… umm, what are they going to try and call this stuff?/become the soundtrack to your wasted bike-ride home by the beach at seven am on new years day, so every time you hear it, years from now, you will be instantly transported back there.

And the remixers are already on the case. Here is a mash up of “My Girls” with “Your Love” by Frankie Knuckles, the song that inspired it/they ripped the synth line from whole-heartedly. It takes a while for the AC vox to come in but it’s probably worth it.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Sackinton permalink
    January 21, 2009 10:43 am

    no comment.

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