Review Summary: Technically music
Animals as Leaders have built a cult following and an impressive career off a fairly performative but nonetheless impressively executed metaphysical concept; playing music that, physically speaking, basically nobody else can. Five-plus years after The Madness of Many
, their last bout of convoluted rhythmic exercises and finger-twisting solos, the trio has returned to the scene with Parrhesia
, another dense and myopic work.
To be clear, there is absolutely no messing with Animals as Leaders, three of the most outrageously locked in and wildly proficient musicians on the face of the planet, on a technical level. Stringsmen Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes seamlessly navigate bizarre time signatures and glide through innumerable key and scale changes with utter ease, while drummer Matt Garstka pounds out obtuse, jilted polyrhythms and fast-twitch double bass sections as easily as most people tie their shoes. And yet, what is the point? All of this stuff was present on 2014's acclaimed The Joy of Motion
, but that record felt significantly more interested in establishing coherent musical motifs and memorable songwriting than The Madness of Many
or this album. There's nothing comparable to the bouncy and head-bobbing catchiness of "Physical Education" here, not even close; Parrhesia
feels like music destined to and designed for twisting Berklee students' brains into ampersands first and foremost, with little creative vision beyond that point.
Much ado has been made about the album's comparatively short 37-minute runtime after a nearly six year absence, but even that feels like either just enough or slightly too much; the breezy duration still feels somewhat exhausting when the sole songwriting principle on display is "wouldn't it be ***ed up if we played this?".
Yeah guys, it would be. It is. Mission accomplished. Have a cookie.