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 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.

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