Animal Collective: Sung Tongs

Although rock music seems to find fewer and fewer outlets as metal and punk and hip-hop have all been subverted (or unsubverted as the case may be) by commercial interests, we are still firmly entrenched in the rock era with but a few glimpses of where we might go next. But a closer look (or listen) reveals a possibility. Post-rock (or post-anything for that matter) can be a catch-all term for anything that steps outside of the established confines of its genre, but there are a few bands that seem to be taking the lead in what will perhaps be the next thing. Animal Collective is one of those bands. The question is whether this is a new avenue for rock music or an altogether different genre. The structure is different, the instruments are different, but yet there's something...something very rock about it.

Music: 3.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
Odd, repetitive rhythms and an almost complete absence of hooks makes Sung Tongs a tough listen. Rock's vocal-guitar-bass-drums approach is no more present than its verse-chorus-verse songs structure. Animal Collective walks off into the future as they see it and they seem to do so with a childlike naivité. Whether this movement is the future or demise of rock music (or just a blip on the pop music radar) remains to be seen, but this particular album is a little too quiet to be the one.

Is this more than just random experimentation? I think so. Granted, they don't boil things down into three minute pop songs. Instead, these are serious mood pieces that work together more like a movie, just without the visuals. It is experimental without a doubt, but there is a point if you're willing to change how you listen.

Packaging: 2.0 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
Frankly, the package does nothing for me. It has kind of a Day of the Dead feel to it and I guess it's clever that they have happy faces, but the music requires too much effort to try to figure out the artwork as well.

Listen if you like: Sigur Ros, TV on the Radio, Brian Eno, Ornette Coleman, the future...

If it were food, it'd be: The food of the future. Not that pill that turned into a meal on the Jetsons, but a real meal that we just don't quite know about yet. Maybe they'll eventually serve it at McDonald's and maybe they won't.


taotechuck said...

Thanks for writing a guest post, Bob. I hated the album in the past, but your review made me take another listen.

Sadly, I still hate it.

Back when I was fresh out of music school, I'd written a song with lots of time signature changes. Someone asked me why I'd put the time changes in, and when I looked at him blankly, he laughed and said, "Dude, you just change time signatures because you can!" He laughed and walked out of the room.

Almost all the experimentation on this album sounds like it was done because they can do it, not because they should do it. I believe songs are like stories: if you understand the spirit of the song, the song will tell you what notes and rhythms to use. Doesn't matter if you're as crazy as Ornette Coleman or as mainstream as U2.

These guys sound like they are so concerned with what their brains are telling them that they've stopped listening to what the songs tell them.

If I want brain music, I'll listen to John Cage or Zappa rather than some wankers who feel compelled to fill every song with crappy effects and twee guitar lines.

taotechuck said...

With that said, "Visiting Friends" is the one time that the album actually succeeds in creating something that isn't simply annoying. Makes me think that maybe they should write longer songs.

The Mad Hatter said...

Look, if anything in the future sounds like McDonalds, musically or otherwise, I'm gonna pop a .40 in my polluted brain and get karma-cleansed righto-quick.

Chuck, I waved at you again -- this time from a flight. I'm quite certain I may have seen you because through process of elimination I observed from those trying not to get murdered and those doing the murdering that you are very short. Or you were just ducking.

taotechuck said...

I remember that plane passing overhead. The murderers were all preoccupied, so I took the opportunity to bend down and tie my shoe. Next time I'll wave.