Scott Creney

Why Everett True Is Wrong – Animal Collective

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By Scott Creney

Animal Collective has ruined music for a generation with their semi-ironic stances, lack of bass, and disengagement with their audience.

Separated at birth: Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Animal Collective. How do you tell these bands apart from middle distance? Squint a lot?

… a band as derivative, irrelevant, unimaginative and collegiate as Animal Collective.

So what if the one idea that Animal Collective had – to spill beer on their copy of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and then sing tunelessly along in the background over the occasional vomit of acoustic guitar – was thought up in a Brooklyn stoner haze, bumming someone else’s joint?

Everett True – June 11, 2010

Let’s take these one at a time.

Animal Collective has ruined music for a generation with their semi-ironic stances, lack of bass, and disengagement with their audience.

Contrary to ruining music, I’m pretty sure that AC’s manner of making music — through utilizing loops and 21st Century technology in addition to standard instruments may be our best hope for ending the ubiquity of earnest, rooted in technical ability, guitar rock once and for all. They are the anti-Oasis, the anti-Coldplay. Animal Collective have liberated sound and done for the computer what punk once did for guitars. The only limit is people’s imagination.

I am not familiar with AC’s ironic stance, semi or otherwise. I hear nothing in their songs and lyrics but aching sincerity.

Bands with a ‘lack of bass’ who are/were loved by ET: The White Stripes, Beat Happening, Sleater-Kinney, Daniel Johnston, and probably loads more that he’s going to link to in, or after, this article.

And as far as disengagement goes, I saw them in 2007 at a theatre in Atlanta. They seemed pretty into it, as did the audience. These people seem pretty engaged as well.

Separated at birth: Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Animal Collective. How do you tell these bands apart from middle distance? Squint a lot?

Well, the first three bands are rock bands with guitars. The last one is an electronic/experimental band with pop melodies. The first three bands have full drum kits set up behind them. The last one does not.

. . . a band as derivative, irrelevant, unimaginative and collegiate as Animal Collective.

Now this is the one that pisses me off the most. Of all the music in the world to single out as derivative, THIS is the band you’re going to pick?

Animal Collective are the antithesis of Kings Of Leon. Their music is free of machismo and clichés, of megalomania and beards. It’s a pop music that is inspired by Terry Riley instead of Carlos Santana. It’s more Alvin Lucier than U2. It’s too blistered to be Pink Floyd, too urgent to be The Grateful Dead. In the worlds of pop and rock, mainstream or indie, Animal Collective’s music is virtually without precedent.

So what if the one idea that Animal Collective had — to spill beer on their copy of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and then sing tunelessly along in the background over the occasional vomit of acoustic guitar — was thought up in a Brooklyn stoner haze, bumming someone else’s joint?

Ah yes. Except for those Beach Boys-esque harmonies. I’ll grant ET that one. But come on, there was nothing — I repeat, NOTHING — overtly psychedelic about The Beach Boys. Smile is an incredible album, but it’s not exactly Can. Shit, it’s not even ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’. To dismiss AC as Beach Boys rip-offs is to ignore the entirely different instrumentation, sound, structure, and production of the songs. Reading this, I get the feeling ET hasn’t listened to a lot of Animal Collective, and certainly nothing since 2004. But the above description bears absolutely no resemblance to this song.

Maybe we have different ears, different ways of hearing. But for me, the part of the song from 5:15-5:25 where  Avey Tare gradually shifts from screaming “reverend green” to “ripping me” remains among the most emotionally devastating moments I’ve experienced in music over the last few years. It’s as raw and passionate, as isolated and desperate as anything by Dan Treacy, or Kurt Cobain, or Daniel Johnston for that matter.

Here’s a link to the lyrics. They seem pretty engaged, relevant, and clear-headed to me.

Whether you like Animal Collective’s music or not, it’s dishonest to say they’re unoriginal. It’s plain wrong to say they’re indistinguishable from Arcade Fire. And it remains to be seen if they’ll ruin music for an entire generation. At the very least, they’ll never be able to ruin it as badly as Nirvana did.

27 Responses to Why Everett True Is Wrong – Animal Collective

  1. Stocky August 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Kurt Cobain, Daniel Johnston and The Beach Boys have all written strong, catchy melodies. I’ve never heard a memorable Animal Collective song.

  2. Ragequit August 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    You haven’t heard ‘My Girls’ then. Cause that’s catchy.

  3. simon August 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    smiley smile is pretty psychadelic

  4. InfiniteJest August 9, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Stocky–you’ve never heard a memorable melody in an Animal Collective song? Try these, then:

    Brother Sport
    What Would I Want? Sky
    Purple Bottle
    Summertime Clothes

    &c &c &c.

    If you claim these melodies aren’t memorable, you’re going out of your way to make a point.

  5. Princess Stomper August 9, 2011 at 5:39 am

    That’s the first time I’ve ever properly listened to Animal Collective and … um … well, they sorta remind me of the woefully-unwedded Herbert from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. “He’s going to tell/he’s going to tell”, etc.

    Well done for getting me to click on the links, though.

  6. Conan Neutron August 9, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I don’t have strong feelings about Animal Collective one way or another, but using them as an example of detachment (a real and very serious problem in most of the music championed by pitchforkmedia) is a bit much, yes.

  7. Stocky August 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I did ignore the main point of the post as I’m not particularly interested as to whether Animal Collective are original or not. For me, innovation and style has little to do with good (or bad) music. When I’m searching for new music I’m looking for good songs. So you could sell me the idea that they have a unique style but are their songs good? I’m still not sold.

  8. Joseph Kyle August 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    While some of their records are pretty–I especially like Sung Tongs, where they started to show a “pop” sensibility, but the follow up, Feels, really impressed me. That record was pretty, baroque-pop, almost not unlike the weird teenage offspring of XTC’s English Settlement. Live, on that tour, however…but they played in Houston, all it was, really, was an hour of long instrumental jams that were just…horrid, with their backs turned to the audience for most of the time. I don’t know if it was because they were dissatisfied with the club’s sound, and made the decision to do an all-instrumental set, or if they knew they couldn’t replicate what they had done on record. It was just utterly boring. I sort of lost my taste for ’em after that; it’s cool if you’re doing stuff in the studio that is innovative, but to be so dismissive of the audience, it just was boring.

  9. InfiniteJest August 10, 2011 at 4:03 am

    I will say that the live show isn’t for everyone.

    I saw them in Albuquerque in 2009 and, well, I had an acid flashback, so I’m not sure if I’m qualified to comment. Too much noise and too many lights. I guess I’m getting old.

    Feels is an excellent record from start to finish. The opening track, “Did You See the Words”, is as ambitious and exciting an opener as any in the last couple of decades of pop. In my humblest of opinions.

    If nothing else, you have to admit that no one can crescendo like AC.

  10. Nate M August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    mmmmm…nope. gonna have to side with Everett on this one. Take away all the effects pedals and do you have a song? not really. Some of my best friends are AC fans and their live experiences have been similar to that Houston show described above (substitute Atlanta and there you have it). Would Kurt have subjected his audience to such treatment? not a chance. So fuck you for dropping his name in there. No comparison. At all.

  11. InfiniteJest August 11, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Are you serious? “Take away the effects pedals” and there’s no song? That is ridiculous for at least three reasons.

    1. Take away Kurt’s electric guitar, and do you have a song? Not really. Those effects pedals are part of the band’s instrumentation. Why would you want to take away any musician’s instruments? Surely you aren’t some sort of 90s Luddite, only willing to accept musicianship if its played on instruments available to Kurt Cobain and company. And by the way, here’s the instrument lineup from AC’s album Feels: piano, violin, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar (believe it or not!), drums, sampler, autoharp, cello, various percussion. Whether you want to accept it or not, they do play intruments, write songs, write lyrics, and rehearse. Just like a real band! You know?

    2. “Would Kurt have subjected his audience to such treatment?” Right, because heroin addicts have so much concern for other people. Look, the argument isn’t KURT COBAIN vs ANIMAL COLLECTIVE. It is possible (Gasp!) to like both, in fact I’m one of those people. Their music doesn’t overlap in any way. I think what Scott was saying is that just like Kurt wrote pop songs from a unique perspective, AC writes art rock that just so happens to be pop. There are some amazing melodies in Kurt’s music, and there are plenty of amazing melodies to be found in AC. It’s rewarding to find them both.

    3. Ever seen footage of Nirvana’s last show in Munich? Maybe the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. So yes, even your Kurt would subject his fans to a show they may not enjoy. Besides, though I didn’t enjoy AC live, there were hundreds of people there shaking their asses and loving life.

  12. Nate M August 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

    1. oh, so it’s absolutely crucial that all AC vocals be slathered in gross reverb at all times? if the songwriting is so good, why do I find myself struggling to detect these purported “pop” elements? wallpaper with a glitzy pattern is still just wallpaper.
    as for Nirvana, during the unplugged special, Kurt could have dropped the guitar during any song and kept singing with no backing a la Jonathan Richman and it would have been beautiful and poignant and therein lies the strength of his vocal melodies/stage charisma

    2. yeah, heroin sucks and I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to see the moronic jocks you hated so intensely your whole life fill arenas and worship you. Has a group of fratboys ever repeatedly raped a girl while singing “Fireworks” or “Winter’s Love”? If so, did Panda Bear (or whoever) take it personally? cuz I haven’t heard about it if it actually happened and looking back on that last sentence, feel like having to type “Panda Bear” in lieu of someone’s actual name just underscores everything I hate about this stupid band

    3. I have no complaint with the Munich set, in fact, watching the video footage on youtube was awesome. they played recognizable, but sloppy versions of the songs on the albums. Nirvana were a sloppy band! and they were still better than the Replacements on an off-night. If they had come out and done a 45-min. version of “Endless Namless” I could see your point, but they didn’t. When you factor in the stress and strain of everything that was unravelling in Kurt’s life at that point, the Munich show could have been so much worse.

    So what’s AC’s excuse for making my friends shell out $22 plus service fees for the privilege of seeing incomplete/unrecognizable versions of their songs? Where do they get off abandoning structured songs altogether for a night of instrumental jamming? I guess if you’re on board, anything they decide to shit out is automatically brilliant and justifies a fairly steep cost of entry. My friends felt majorly ripped off and these are DEVOTED FANS.
    You can go to any braindead hippie festaroo and see people shaking their asses and loving life. big fucking deal. I generally tend to avoid shows where gangly doofuses named Chad come up to you with their visor, dreads, cargo shorts and flip-flops offering to sell you “molly”.

    I may be a fascist, but back in high school you COULDN’T like Nirvana AND Pearl Jam, because they represented two polar opposite aesthetics. Fast forward twenty years and I can’t support AC because of what they represent. For me, there is no emotional connection to their songs and there never will be. They are wallpaper and that’s all.

  13. Scott Creney August 11, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Hey, Nate. Since you haven’t seen Animal Collective play, and I’m assuming you didn’t see Nirvana play, maybe you should calm the fuck down a bit with your self-righteous bullshit. And then you should go back and read the article, but since you’re not going to do that, how about I go ahead and explain it to you.

    The ONLY comparison I made between AC and St. Kurt concerned a 15-second snippet of ONE Animal Collective song that I personally found/find emotionally powerful–as powerful (and yes this is my subjective opinion) as anything by KC, DJ, DT, etc. You can disagree if you want to. That’s your right. But did you at least listen to it? Because you’re playing this game where you compare AC’s entire output to Nirvana’s output, find it wanting, and tell me to go fuck myself. As if I somehow wrote that AC were as good as, or better than Nirvana.

    Now, I HAVE seen both bands play. And maybe I caught AC on a good night, but it remains one of the more trascendent concerts I’ve experienced. And while I have no doubt I caught Nirvana on a bad night (towards the end of their In Utero tour in a basketball arena), I can tell you that Kurt’s performance was phoned-in, half-assed, and ultimately, boring. And Nirvana was without question my favorite band in the world at the time.

    The fact that you think your unconditional love for Nirvana is somehow superior to someone else’s (NOT MINE, I understand I have to make these things very clear for you) unconditional love for AC is just stupid. And the fact you feel the need to go around bullying people for liking the band, as if their liking AC somehow affects you personally, is just retarded.

    The rest of your points (‘Are AC pro-rape because I’ve never heard about them getting upset if someone sang one of their songs while they raped somebody which I don’t know if that happened?’ and ‘You can’t like Nirvana and Pearl Jam’) are beyond retarded. If you’re implying that AC’s audience is filled with rapists because only hippies/jocks/whoever go around raping people, but somehow YOUR subculture only contains respectful non-raping feminists, then you’re also naive. As well as retarded. As well as a bully. And as well as (apparently) illiterate.

    Keep on truckin’ good buddy.

  14. Joseph Kyle August 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I didn’t see a whole lot of jocks on the In Utero tour. I would, however, say that the audience looked a helluva lot more like that Miley Cyrus concert. Lots and lots of teens. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but still…it would be the same sort of audience you would see at a Blink-182 concert. The venues were sheds, the audience suburban, and young. Not the same sort of audience you’d have seen on the tours before Nevermind. The opening bands were treated with apathy. Kurt was in a bad way. The band was tired. We know where it all wound up a few months later, sadly.

  15. Scott Creney August 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Even worse, Joseph, my leg of the tour had Chokebore and (a barely there) Butthole Surfers as the openers. And I understand all the stuff going on with the band, I could even feel it at the time. I think ultimately I’m just pissed because a few friends invited me to go see them in early summer ’91 when they played Tijuana and I passed on it. The guy who invited me loved Slayer and Guns ‘N’ Roses. How was I supposed to know? Sigh…

  16. Guy Named Chad August 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    “In the worlds of pop and rock, mainstream or indie, Animal Collective’s music is virtually without precedent.”

    You know better than this.

  17. Everett True August 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    “In the worlds of pop and rock, mainstream or indie, Animal Collective’s music is virtually without precedent.”

    This makes more sense.

    “In the worlds of pop and rock, mainstream or indie, Animal Collective’s music is virtually without president.”

  18. InfiniteJest August 12, 2011 at 12:07 am

    The idea that “because Kurt Cobain was publicly upset about a rape incident involving his music he is somehow superior to Animal Collective” is patently ridiculous. Now, you may ask, do I think that Nirvana is superior to Animal Collective? Yes, of course I do. Here’s the beautiful part–I CAN LIKE, even LOVE, both bands. And I do.

    For me, there’s nothing better than Nirvana live at Reading. There’s also not much better than the first four tracks on AC’s Feels, or the tail-end of the AC concert I misrepresented above. They played the entirety of their very intimate and layered and musical (even classically beautiful) Prospect Hummer EP to a crowd that had mostly dispersed. It was soft and amazing and transcendent. I shared twenty minutes with a band I thought I’d just been cut off from, and I’ll never forget it.

    The world would be a better place if more of us would just shut the fuck up about bands we don’t like and concentrate on bands we love. You know, should any of the AC haters here accidentally stumble onto a bit of their music they love, I find it hard to believe that they’d admit as much. And that’s sad.

    As for the knock on Panda Bear–the name comes from mini art projects he completed as a teenager. He drew pandas to accompany early avant-garde recordings that he handed out to his buddies. If you can seriously stand up in a crowded room and insult the doodlings of a young kid, you’re way too callous to participate in any kind of artistic debate to begin with.

    Rule 62, buddy–don’t take yourself so fucking seriously.

  19. Scott Creney August 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Sigh… Sadly, I do mean this. And I’m still waiting for someone to tell me who these obvious precedents are. Yes, the harmonies are definitely similar to Beach Boy harmonies. But beyond that? Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion are albums made up almost entirely of densely layered electronic music, built on samplers and computers. And they’ve both been successful, the second one even reached the top ten. I’m not trying to argue that AC are the most amazing-est band who ever lived. But I do think they’re original. And if someone wants to disagree about that, they’re more than welcome to, but it might help their argument if they–you know–pointed out some actual examples of these obvious pop/rock precedents.

  20. Wallace Wylie August 12, 2011 at 12:52 am

    You guys need to chill out and listen to some U2.

  21. Joseph Kyle August 12, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Or maybe some Polyphonic Spree!

  22. teddybear August 12, 2011 at 3:19 am

    I don’t understand how a Nirvana/AC debate started. It doesn’t seem very relevant to the article at all.

    BUT for closure: AC cover Nirvana.


    (Now I hate both bands!)

  23. InfiniteJest August 12, 2011 at 4:33 am

    I think I’ve found something close to a precedent.

    Jon Anderson. This is from his record “Olias of Sunhillow.”

    Do I believe that Avey Tare or Panda Bear or any of the guys have ever heard this record? I don’t think so, and I’m not sure it matters.

    The whole record is pretty rad if you’re an AC fan.

    What do you guys think?

  24. Nate M August 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

    all right, I’m gonna chip in my response and hopefully that will put a fork in all this.

    the AC vs. Nirvana thing started when Scott mentioned Kurt in the same sentence as Avey Tare and I winced. Scott stated his opinion and I replied with mine, using a swear word for emphasis. Also, felt “Nirvana ruined music” comment was planted for the whole purpose of being provocative and decided to rise to Scott’s challenge and spark the (ahem) “debate” he was begging for.

    ..and to answer your question, I DID, in fact, listen to the song.
    I am not unfamiliar with Animal Collective. I shrugged my shoulders back in ’04 when one of my State St. Deli co-workers brought in the “Indian” & “Sung Tong” CDs. The Devendra freak-folk bandwagon was in full effect at the time and I was already weary of the trend.
    AC has been frequent background music in my life ever since, having dated/hung out with AC fans. Just so everyone out there doesn’t think I’m a big meanie, “Grass” is the closest I’ve ever heard AC get to a good song.
    The majority of the time I am just baffled as to what it is people think is so great about them.

    I turned down the chance to see AC in Atlanta when an extra ticket was proffered. When I asked my friends how the show went, they brought back the full disappointing report similar to the Houston show detailed above, I was stunned at the bands arrogance and was glad I made the right call, even when my friends were giving me the hard sell the day before.

    On the other hand, missing Nirvana at the Springfield Civic Center on Nov. 10th, 1993 is just one of many things I hold a deep bitterness about. That show happened nine days before my 17th birthday and would have been my first live concert by a national act. By the time me & everyone else in my culturally isolated town in New Hampshire even knew about it, it was sold out.
    So congratulations, Scott, for being older, more mobile, not living at home with an overbearing single parent or whatever other factors contributed to you getting to see a tired, sub-par Nirvana show.

    As far as AC precedents go, I will offer up Silver Apples and Suicide, when it comes to unconventional/pioneering “arty” music that I actually find interesting.
    In regards to more contemporary bands, the Boredoms are a more engaging and stylistically varied experimental outfit. Also much funnier.

    I thought “Panda Bear” was just a whimsical and precious nickname the guy chose. I had no idea there was a whimsical and precious story to go along with it.

    As for the rape thing, my point wasn’t that AC fans are rapists, but it was reported to Kurt that some Nirvana fans actually were and I could understand how such incidents would contribute towards an artist’s disdain for their audience, whereas AC strike me as aloof, detached and unconcerned with those who come to the live show expecting album cuts for no reason other than “that’s just how they roll”.

    Sorry to come off so defensive in response to InfiniteJest, but I was feelin’ the spirit. If aiming for a passionate screed veered over into self-righteousness and breaking rule #62, well…mea culpa.

    “The world would be a better place if more of us would just shut the fuck up about bands we don’t like and concentrate on bands we love.”
    Oh, for fuck’s sake….have I missed the entire point of this website? Have you? Sounds like you owe Chad forty bucks.

  25. Smack77 August 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Oh are we supposed to think that Animal Collective are better than the Grateful Dead? Maybe because we believe that the Grateful Dead are a hippy band…and we are unfamiliar with American Beauty (which, by the way, each member of Animal Collective likes very much…and would readily admit is better than their own music). Do you know what you are talking about? Nevertheless…I think it’s an argument between a not very clued up writer and an ANTIQUE critic. Seriously, Everett True’s melody grunge aesthetic is so dated I’m embarassed for him. Jesus fucking Christ it would be more modern to write about Mahler than KURT COBAIN (WTF). I was reading his piece on some songs he’s taken two decades to track down…bragging that Oasis invited him for drinks and he said no…why waste time even MENTIONING Oasis? Because they were very famous amongst neds/bogans in the 90s? Heavily featured on the pages of prostitute music press (completely bought by record companies)? Oh and the songs he tracked down make the Alan Parsons Project look like fucking Harry Partch. Jesus. I wanna track down old Everett True articles about Green Day. He probably liked them. Their sound certainly fit within his editorial line.

  26. InfiniteJest August 13, 2011 at 1:06 am

    “We love music, and we want to express that love, share that love, communicate that love in whatever way we can.”

    Die in a fire.

  27. Chad Parkhill August 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Aside from the morally-reprehensible rhetorical use of rape (which should generally be avoided in arguments about music unless you’re talking about something like Tori Amos’s ‘Me and a Gun’), the earnestness of this comments thread is fucking comedy gold.

    Also, what’s the go with the Chad-hate? This feels like primary school and the “no Chads club” all over again.

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