Review Summary: bath
I have tried.
Oh how I've tried. At first I didn't even realise I was trying; I bought the record, slipped it from its acid-tripped case, and sank into the ambience and organic sound effects with unerring ease. I deemed that feeling enjoyment
for a while. Maybe it was hearing Feels
that broke the illusion, Animal Collective's 2005 magnum opus being in every way an expansion upon, and better version of, the carefree atmosphere evoked from time to time throughout Merriweather Post Pavilion
. What Animal Collective do better than almost everybody else in music at the moment is bring an aesthetic to the table which, though its means and ends are actually quite glaring, seems to harbour a subtlety in its smiling, impulsive nostalgia. It really is about the way it all feels
So at first glance, Merriweather Post Pavilion
is the same, because it's drenched in atmosphere and other water-related metaphors so heavily that you can easily be pulled under. But further scrutiny reveals what could not accurately be described as mere chinks in the armour, but overarching disappointments which run through every track bar one. That track, for the record, is 'Summertime Clothes', the clear standout whose bubbling electronics carry a passion and a momentum with them to propel the soaring refrain which actually sounds as joyous as we know Animal Collective can be.
And sure, the tribal drums on 'My Girls' evoke the image of a band that loves having fun, playing with their eyes closed from inside some sort of trance. Until you actually listen, at which point you realise how devilishly calculated it all is. Remember the beeeeeeeeeeeeees
? Forget them. Structurally, melodically, and even in terms of real excitement, Merriweather
is lacking, and the textures cannot compensate for the predictable nature of almost every song, the repetitive techniques used throughout. For the majority of its clearly-considered passages, Merriweather
is like taking a really long bath in - granted - beautiful multi-coloured water. I fu
baths. I hate how they're so deliberately tranquil and, frankly, tedious. And Merriweather
is the same.
The way in which it attempts to counter this dullness is its ultimate downfall, as it relies on the same cascades and jangles throughout to fill the gaps in a way that makes them more conspicuous by their absence, like in the potential-wasting 'My Girls' and, heaven, the madly repetitive and dull closer 'Brothersport', which is infuriating before even a minute has passed. Elsewhere, the tribal influence feels obnoxious everywhere except 'Lion In A Coma', and 'Daily Routine' is almost unlistenable thanks to its short, frequent spasms of purposely jarring electronics.
I hate baths. Seriously. And Merriweather Post Pavilion
surrounds you in that same way, allowing you to sink into it. But as soon as your consciousness drifts above that of a coma patient, its flaws are all too obvious. Its structures are simplistic and its melodies are repetitive, its attempted rescue missions are at best ineffective and at worst completely grating, largely depending on how much attention you pay to the calculated and rigid way the record and its songs are constructed. There is clear potential on display, a reasonable range of ideas and no shortage of atmosphere, but it largely gets wasted inside a plethora of underwhelming moments, and the end result is a numb one; a pleasant one, perhaps, but simply nothing special.