Review Summary: A lesson on the importance of quality control, in album form
It’s pretty much a cold hard fact that this is the least popular Animal Collective album.
‘Danse Manatee’ had the somewhat daunting task of following, the undeniably great ‘Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished’, an album that, while quite experimental, contained 10 songs of electro/acoustic pop bliss. With the addition of Geologist on keyboards, the soon-to-be-Animal Collective, set about experimenting with so-called ‘extreme frequencies’, almost completely ditching the joyful and child-like melodies of ‘Spirit…’ in the process.
Due to the band experimenting with very high and low sounds, the melodies in these 12 songs are hidden deep within very abrasive walls of sound. Which is a shame because there are some great songs on offer here if you’re willing to put up with a throbbing headache and some extremely high-pitched screeches. By far the best song on here is ‘Essplode’ which is, funnily enough, the song that most resembles ‘Spirit…’. With its shimmering guitar and catchy vocal melody, it’s the least experimental song on the album, and this is definitely a good thing. ‘Another White Singer (Little White Glove)’ with its nice beat and weird vocals is a highlight too, as is ‘Runnin’ The White Ball’ but one of the most frustrating things about this album is that whenever the group has a good song idea, the song is often really short and ends when the goings getting good.
Although this can’t be said for every song; ‘Penguin Penguin’ is an absolute mess of a song, just 2 minutes of loud noises and a very annoying vocal effect. Also ‘Bad Crumbs’ which is nothing more than a filler track. The longer tracks meet with varying levels of success, ‘Meet The Light Child’ is a complete and utter failure, imagine ‘Penguin Penguin’ but 8 MINS LONG! ‘Ahhh Good Country’ on the other hand has a nice build-up and the middle of the song gives you a nice break from the throbbing bass present throughout most of the album. The problem is most of the long songs don’t make good use of their running time and could benefit from being shorter, just as the shorter songs on the album could benefit from being longer!
The album closer ‘In The Singing Box’ leaves us on a high note with it’s pretty synths and it’s interesting stop-start structure, but it doesn’t really make up for the disappointing lack of quality control throughout the rest of the album. In the end, perhaps the best way of describing this album is frustrating, because as I said before there are some great ideas hidden in the murky waters of this album and if you swim deep enough, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you’ll definitely surface with some great songs. But then again, if you’re not willing to take the dive, no one’s going to blame you.