Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion


2.0
poor

Review

by Michael Jordan (GoAT) USER (6 Reviews)
April 8th, 2010 | 561 replies | 20,396 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The decline of indie pop.

29 of 35 thought this review was well written

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion has all the makings of an indie pop masterpiece. It’s an upbeat, intelligent blend of electronica and psychedelia, with just enough quirkiness and irony to meet the passing fancy of the hipster hordes. Backed up by the mystique of having been formed in the 1990s (that is, prior to the indie explosion of the early 2000s) and a discography that charts its failed relationships with a number of independent labels, Animal Collective by 2008 were already established as one of the premier indie groups. This reputation was further enhanced by a sequence of challenging but critically-acclaimed “avant-garde” releases over the course of the decade. Bringing their years of hipster credibility to bear, they thus recorded Merriweather Post Pavilion, generally acknowledged to be their most accessible and comprehensive work to date, a grand synthesis of all the lines they’d been developing before.

The album itself showcases an impressive range of influences – from African rhythm sections to shimmering swirls of synth – presenting an altogether eclectic and unlikely combination of many different musical traditions. Animal Collective often pursue a dizzying number of mutations in their songs. Tracks like "Bluish" proceed through a series of hazy transitions, one section melting into another. The success of this tactic is uneven; sometimes it works, but other times it just leads to confusion. The instrumentation on the album is also worth noting, if only for its innovation. On “Lion in a Coma,” the group achieves a remarkable instrumental effect, looping what sounds to be a didgeridoo modified to simulate a Jew’s harp. Atmospheric effects recur throughout Merriweather Post Pavilion, from jungle sounds in the opening seconds of "Taste" to the evening sway of crickets in "Guys' Eyes."

Vocally, Animal Collective conjure up all the old ghosts of late-60s rock, channeling Brian Wilson and the Boys in “My Girls” and “Bluish” and drifting toward Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles with “Also Frightened.” The singing in "Daily Routine" actually at times recalls (don't laugh) Sting in his glory days with the Police. African-style chanting backs the main vocal line in the closing track, "Brothersport"; this is one of the few moments on the record that is immediately recognizable as a failure. The bubblegum swell that builds behind the repetition of the line "Open up your, open up your, open your thoat..." is singularly obnoxious. The lyrics on Merriweather Post Pavilion are little more than playful nonsense. Gestures are made toward Kant's theory of taste and the sublime in "Taste," but the deepest thought this song expresses – captured in the refrain "Am I really all the things that are outside of me?" – amounts to nothing beyond your usual stoner philosophical question. Some clever paraesthetic wordplay on "Summertime Clothes" makes for some charming imagery, but overall the lyrical content on the album is of secondary importance to Animal Collective.

On the face of things, Merriweather Post Pavilion appears unassuming and ingenuous – a Timothy Leary vision of the twenty-first century. What’s more, it’s a comforting vision. It does away with all the cold mathematical precision and technicality that characterizes so much electronic music. Animal Collective consciously avoid the haunting, abstract, and industrial strains of electronica represented by artists like Autechre or Aphex Twin. Even the lush compositions of ambient techno, songs by groups like Orbital and the Future Sound of London, seem hopelessly removed from present humanity by comparison. Reviews have consistently praised Merriweather Post Pavilion on precisely this point. Animal Collective, they say, never lose sight of the “humanistic” base of their songwriting, no matter how drenched in sampling and electronics it may be. In this respect, the band remains true to Frank Gehry design from which the album takes its name, and to Gehry’s architectural corpus in general.

But this should be viewed as a sign of weakness rather than of strength. Instead of blithely celebrating the frivolity and down-to-earth sensibilities of Animal Collective (however drugged out these sensibilities may be), we should recognize the way that the group dilutes the original power and promise of electronic music. There is every reason to be irritated by its triviality and inconsequence. All its “delightful” little meanderings quickly grow tiresome.

Merriweather Post Pavilion’s eclecticism, moreover, its recourse to elements of world music (which it awkwardly juxtaposes against synths), in fact signals the decline of the popular indie phenomenon that first achieved prominence in the early 2000s. From its first days this recent incarnation of "indie" relied heavily on throwback appeal. But the bands of the new indie circuit, which had from the beginning so self-consciously aped the past greats, were now unconsciously repeating a cyclical movement that had played itself out a little over two decades earlier. They were following that same progression from the Velvet Underground (the Strokes) to post-punk (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol) and its aftermath in New Wave (the Killers and others) and insipid mid-decade pop. If these parallels have any significance, this cycle would come to its rightful end with the turn to world music, or more broadly eclecticism (think David Byrne after he left the Talking Heads, the later Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon with Rhythm of the Saints). Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, along with similarly eclectic records produced by bands like Vampire Weekend or Architecture in Helsinki, would then seem to stand at the end of this motion, pointing to a movement in its death throes.



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user ratings (2187)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2010



30893 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I endorse this review

Digging: FaltyDL - In The Wild

sniper
April 8th 2010



19000 Comments


I love this album. Pos'd.

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

Ghostechoes
April 8th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"morever" (?) Pos'd.

Dryden
April 8th 2010



12928 Comments


sux

Roach
April 8th 2010



2149 Comments


band rules

Piglet
April 8th 2010



4653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hmmmm. It seems that you're just pinning down Animal Collective's name instead of your own.

scotish
April 8th 2010



835 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"But this should be viewed as a sign of weakness rather than of strength. Instead of blithely celebrating the frivolity and down-to-earth sensibilities of Animal Collective (however drugged out these sensibilities may be), we should recognize the way that the group dilutes the original power and promise of electronic music. There is every reason to be irritated by its triviality and inconsequence. All its “delightful” little meanderings grow tiresome and quite quickly become obnoxious."

this is basically the crux of the review, and it basically says that because this isn't like most electronica music then that's inherently a bad thing. well, it's warmth and bubbly-ness and accessiblity in this way is one of the things that makes it so great, and I can't see how any of that is bad, or how breaking away from the genre norm is bad either.

...in my opinion. regardless, well written review.

Ponton
Emeritus
April 8th 2010



5784 Comments


I enjoyed reading this mj, as it's much more user-friendly than your Jane Doe review - though that's not to say the latter was poorly written at all. Pos from me.

I've recently gotten into this album, but I might have taken a view similar to this one a few months ago.

theacademy
April 8th 2010



28258 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

pos'd bc of rating

Zettel
April 8th 2010



582 Comments


How comes your reviews never appear in the front page? I liked this review.

SrightryEpic
April 8th 2010



1195 Comments


not really sure what you're trying to say with this review but maybe that's because I'm stupid

Ghostechoes
April 8th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After reading your review a couple more times, I can not find solid justification for the rating. Your main
critique is that AC do not honor the traits of more traditional electronic music, yet you find said departure
from the norm to be trivial (?); this is, in my opinion, contradictory. About the last paragraph, I do not think
that the influence of world music signals the demise of the "indie phenomenon", nor that AC are the first to
include elements of world music (listen to, for example, Shpongle, Gang Gang Dance, High Places, Fuck Buttons'
first album, to name a few).

theacademy
April 8th 2010



28258 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

How comes your reviews never appear in the front page? I liked this review.


keeps getting banned and reviewing on alt accounts, thus every review is like his first...

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2010



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

well this isnt surprising or anything. I just tend to think that most people who don't like this album go in expecting something it's not trying to be, then fault MPP for not reaching that standard

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

theacademy
April 8th 2010



28258 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

well this isnt surprising or anything. I just tend to think that most people who don't like this album go in expecting something it's not trying to be, then fault MPP for not reaching that standard


yeah i actually see the same thing happen with Atreyu a lot

Ghostechoes
April 8th 2010



1353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have general, perhaps superficial, knowledge of the music genres I enjoy. You can find several
elements of world music in Shpongle's Tales Of The Inexpressible, which was released in 2001, and in
every other album they have released subsequently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-1E4rYrNVk

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2010



6085 Comments


This review doesn't sound like you know what you're taking about but you really, really think you do. Which is fine I guess, reads well, but then at the end I was like, "well, but yeah?" without any sort of response. Or, well: you should check out Sung Tongs my man, my main man, bro about town fa sho

thebhoy
Emeritus
April 8th 2010



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know, I don't gush over this the same way others do, and I generally dislike AC, but some of these songs are just so enjoyable. Review is well written.

sniper
April 8th 2010



19000 Comments


It feels better because hatred doesn't drip from the screen when you read it. It's actually a fair representation of the album, instead of trying to convince eveyone that the album factually deserves a low rating.

Inveigh
April 8th 2010



24800 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This review is much easier on the eyes than your Jane Doe one (i.e. it's much more comprehensable). That being said, the review reads more like a 3.5-4 but it says 2 at the top. You didn't point out many qualities that make this a "poor" record from Animal Collective.

I've tried to like this record a few times, but about 2/3 of it are just incredibly boring to me. The other 1/3 is good enough to push it to a 3 rating though.

Still, probably your most enjoyable review to read yet.



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