Review Summary: How to be the best you can be
Glass Animals make it look so effortless
. By pairing spiritual, tribal grooves with choruses that could rot your teeth in a matter of seconds, they found themselves a comfortable niche that assured them a spot in our hearts and ears for years to come. It's so easy to pin down all the building blocks of what makes their formula great that it was probably a walk in the park to keep these locked in while the actual music took a step sideways. How To Be A Human Being
is not Zaba
, with its thick choruses and sexual innuendos; where the first album was cocoa and peanut butter, the second is freer and airier – light chocolate, perhaps. Yes, the grooves and the weird obsession with food are still ingrained in Glass Animals' DNA, but Human Being
is in every way its own beast.
How To Be A Human Being
was marketed as a sort of anthology concept album where each song tells the story of someone the band had met. While this is vague enough to describe just about any album ever made, it's also an accurate representation of what to expect behind the album's nightmare fashion parade of a cover. Every song seems to have its own distinct identity, from the fuzzy pop frenzy "Pork Soda" to the schizophrenic downtempo slink of "Mama's Gun" to the disillusioned trip-hop of "The Other Side of Paradise". "Season 2 Episode 3" and "Cane Shuga" signal new territory for the band musically as they toy with voice distortion and Nintendo-esque synths, forging a sound that rests comfortably on the flipside of Zaba
's tribal, earthy grooves. No-one will ever describe Bayley and co. as being thoughtful lyrical masterminds, but they're certainly clever: "Life Itself" juxtaposes vaguely depressing, absent-minded admissions of failure ("I can't find a job, so I live with my mum/I sit in the car and listen to static"
) with humour ("she said I look fat, but I look fantastic"
) to create the perfect unemployment anthem. "Agnes", perhaps the climax of the band's career at this point, tells a moving story of a friend succumbing to drug addiction. There's no exotic groove or synth freak-out or surreal food humour, just a simple, sad piece of Dave Bayley's life translated into song.
What it really comes down to is this: How To Be A Human Being
wears a lot of faces, but it's always comfortable in its own skin. Less eccentric and exciting than its predecessor, perhaps, but only by choice. Glass Animals are at their peak in 2016, and perfectly content to be slower and quieter, worming their way into your head by inches but settling in for the long haul once they're in there.