In a little under five hours indie music tastemaker Pitchfork will bestow a Best New Music tag on experimental earbleeders Animal Collective’s eighth album, Centipede Hz. There’s no surer thing in the world of indie than a slobbering, cream-slacked Animal Collective album review on Pitchfork.
Animal Collective’s most recent album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, received a well-deserved 9.6 from Pitchfork. MPP remains the only Animal Collective album I enjoy. Its Beach Boys on an acid trip leanings represented a sharp turn from the band’s previous forays into masturbatory, hallucinogenic sonic pigshit. Obnoxious drone, nails scratching on chalkboard, shout, shout, oh god make it stop, tripping in the woods, shoutshoutshoutSHOUT!!! There you have Animal Collective’s pre-2009 recipe for success, with precious few exceptions.
Centipede Hz comes out Tuesday on Domino Records. I am expecting Pitchfork to shell out a 9.2 or above on it, thus raising questions whether one of the band’s four members has compromising photos of Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber. Centipede Hz will thus join albums from Frank Ocean, Beach House, Fiona Apple, and Swans as the five to garner Pitchfork’s coveted 9.0+ ratings in 2012.
Pitchfork editor Mark Richardson called Centipede Hz “dense and challenging,” prior to a recent interview with the band. Read: crap and unlistenable, to everyone but hipsters who suffer for their pretentious tastes. My Word program tells me unlistenable is not a real word. Neither is Animal Collective’s product real music – aside from MPP and a handful of other songs (i.e., “Fireworks”, “What Would I Want? Sky”, etc.).
I have heard Centipede Hz, both on record and live, and it strikes me as the sonic equivalent of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Its form-averse sound structures will send the MPP fans running for the hills. The freak folk-era Animal Collective fans will continue to make their case that nothing before 2005 matters, with regard to the group’s discography. These people want the musical version of a nervous breakdown.
You know who will love Centipede Hz?
The site’s reviewers have consistently lapped up Animal Collective’s noise, proclaiming it to the masses as the best the indie world has to offer. Is it any wonder that when most people hear the term “indie” their eyes glaze over?
Here’s a breakdown of Pitchfork’s Animal Collective album ratings (with the year released in parentheses):
Merriweather Post Pavilion – 9.6 (2009)
Strawberry Jam – 9.3 (2007)
Feels – 9.0 (2005)
Sung Tongs – 8.9 (2004)
Here Comes The Indian – 8.6 (2003)
Campfire Songs – 7.1 (2003)
Danse Manatee – 3.9 (2001)
Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished – 8.9 (2000)
Richardson has reviewed the last three proper Animal Collective albums, handing out an average 9.3 rating. He obviously loves the band (and Grateful Dead). I get it, though I disagree with the lofty ratings for Strawberry Jam and Feels.
What I don’t get is the strength of Animal Collective’s ratings throughout the past dozen years. Aside from Danse Manatee, the band has received positive-to-glowing reviews for noises that recall mentally ill chimps beating on trash cans and screaming their lungs out while experiencing the horror Kurtz referenced in Apocalypse Now. Do I need to take psychedelics in order to love Animal Collective? Is it a good trade? Maybe I should ask Mark Richardson.
PS: Pitchfork, while the champion of all things Animal Collective, is far from the only musical outlet fawning over the band’s experimental fancies. Animal Collective’s average Metacritic score is an 80.