Review Summary: what happened?
I’ll preface this by saying that I felt that 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion
was a fantastic record, but I also felt it signaled the end of a natural career arc. At their inception a noisy, freakish duo, Animal Collective have slowly let their audience grow wider, getting warmer and less abrasive with each album. Merriweather
’s unabashed, stadium-thumping pop choruses seemed to indicate that their decade long run towards pop music had reached its apex, and the result was glorious, arguably the strongest record of their careers (though really, which isn’t? And no, Danse Manatee
doesn’t count). But it was also easy; the melodies in “Summertime Clothes” and “My Girls” were irresistible, possibly indicating that Animal Collective were now setting their sights towards arenas when their very insular nature was what was so integral to their initial appeal.
But Animal Collective have never really catered to what’s expected of them; naturally, 2010’s ODDSAC
shuts everyone back out. The band and filmmaker Danny Perez call the collaborative project a “visual album.” It’s fitting that that classification gives equal responsibility to both parties; Perez’s visuals and Animal Collective’s music work too well together for ODDSAC
to be released soundtrack-only. The film opens with an arresting sequence in which fire spinning demons approach a house while the girl within fights off a black goo oozing through her walls. Animal Collective’s uptempo, distorted accompaniment colors the scene as a sort of horrifying spiritual celebration, but the scene ends without resolution, and as Perez picks up the visual ooze motif for one of ODDSAC
’s more disturbing visual sequences, Animal Collective's noise begins to ooze as well. Fittingly, the narrative doesn’t get more cohesive from here, as both Perez and Animal Collective commit fully to abstract, and what becomes clear with each new vignette is that ODDSAC
is wholly for Animal Collective and not a "target audience." Which, in a way, is the best thing about it.
Easy it’s not; ODDSAC
seethes with agitation and frustration. Nearly everything about the film is a psychological assault, from the abstract and often haunting mini-narratives to the aggressive visual interludes. The grainy, simple set designs recall amateur B-movie horror, but without contexts, ODDSAC
’s constant barrage of the uncanny and obtuse is terrifying. (Keep an eye out for the marshmallow scene; it’s eons apart from friendapaloozas “Brothersport” and “Summertime Clothes.”) Band member Geologist astutely observed that fans of only “My Girls” and might not like ODDSAC
, which, depending on how you look at it, makes ODDSAC
either an admirable work or a self-indulgent one, and it’s a little bit of both. Segments such as the undercooked food fight at the end of the film or the interludes too reminiscent of Windows Media Players visualizers tread the line between brilliant and *wink
* “we’re stoned!” But while they betray how limited the project really was, they’re never truly distracting. The smoothness of ODDSAC
’s transitions and its meticulous attention to thematic unity illustrate that it is indeed more than a bizarre mish-mosh of hippie nonsense (which it presents itself as, admittedly) and a well thought out piece of work.
But it is certainly a piece of work. It’s far from perfect and at times, intentionally tough to look at. What it is mostly is interesting
, which, while a much more qualified compliment than good
, is a compliment nonetheless. At this point in their careers, Animal Collective’s reversion to the abstract and bizarre is welcome and fascinating. At a time when they have the clout to release a live DVD, they instead offer us this queer little project that’s aggressively but deliciously obtuse, a film whose merits and interpretations are debatable, but its integrity isn't