Review Summary: The question really is, then, what feelings are we exactly trying to feel and why?Tomboy
doesn’t speak loud enough for us to hear it. It hums, rather; it mumbles. It actually can't
speak. It posits a different mood than that of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion
and Panda Bear’s 2007 landmark release, the welcoming and joyous Person Pitch
. But the different mood suggested in its layers of sound isn’t the problem: said mood has no name, no voice, no discernable, definite emotion tied to it. After “Surfer's Hymn” jingles on through and promptly sets into full motion halfway into the song’s length with its quickening pace of rattling, clashing sounds and Lennox's harmonies, “Last Night At The Jetty” all but veers into a ditch, lumbering like a be-drunken bear full to the brim of its windpipe with a beehive of honey. The logic of the sonic change does not really need to be called into question; after all, trying to apply any type of coherent school of thought to an AC-related universe, in most contexts, is impossible. But the simplicity
of Lennox’s genius is not at all on full display here with similar instances throughout the album. It’s missing. He’s suffocated somewhere beneath the murky textures and choppy, questionable transitions of Tomboy
’s track order. And we simply can’t hear him, much less find him.
2004’s Young Prayer
suffered from such a conundrum as well: buried beneath the muddled music was the genius of Lennox, peeping his wee, nervous, little eyes out from a hole in the ground, unable to transcend his very presence, his voice, in an abstract way of speaking, into the music. Especially when compared to its successor, 2007’s Person Pitch
, Young Prayer
was an incomplete artistic statement, dreary as it was, yet unable to speak for itself these depressed sentiments. Tomboy
finds Lennox in a like situation to that of the latter album, that is, in an emotional, creative transit of some sort, unable to find some definite voice for with which to speak. In “Drone”, he segues the drunken bear tones of “Last Night At The Jetty” with an, albeit obvious, drone of stretched harmonies and candid fuzz into the pulse and click-clack of “Alsatian Darn”. Hand-clap noises and a joyous vocal performance from Lennox near the track’s end then oddly lead into the piano-led melancholy and ocean sway of “Scheherazade”, without any compensation for the attentive, if befuddled listener in tow.
'Lead' is a little misleading here, actually, as when speaking of Tomboy
and its album path, ‘leading’ is not the proper verb to describe the action involved, in any tense. 'Clashing', rather, suits the album and its flow better, unfortunately, which given Lennox’s recent music creation is surprising and conversely disappointing. Even Panda’s work in 2005’s Feels
, an album considered by many to be Animal Collective’s most segregated and lop-sided (but in a good way) album thus far, was controlled, relatively, to the point where the vocal harmonies flowed with nay a hindrance in sight, the sounds and textures of his instrumental workings moved through the recording unheeded. “Afterburner” sounds like a mere afterthought. Closer “Benfica” slams the breaks on the prior track’s momentum, much like the upsetting transfer that took place to “Scheherazade” from “Alasatian Darn” before it, and ends Tomboy
with a perfectly ambiguous, unconnected song that could just have easily fit somewhere in the middle of the album, or even before the very opener itself, “You Can Count On Me”.
So therein is where we find the very record in question, Tomboy
, to be a record in question. The so-called darker mood of the album is only there, sort of, because between the two contrasting moods, happy and depressed, Lennox tries to play both evenly but comes out with a polar-sided Tomboy
, a mixed, hodge-podge pot of textures and harmonies, quite simply impersonal, that makes no definite statement of its own, with no definite voice. You may ask, then, what’s Lennox’s point? What exactly is he and his music trying to say? Why can’t we feel it so easily this time? Oh, and how about this one for all you Panda fans out there: why does Tomboy
require time to grow on listeners, rather than require time for listeners to fall in love
with it? More simply, why is it so impersonal, and why doesn't it feel and sound familiar, lovable, like Person Pitch
? This is a work clearly crafted by Lennox - his melodies swell, his music does that thing that it does - but his presence, quite simply, cannot be heard in the recording. He's hidden and silent, and Tomboy
is a lost cause because of it.