It has been three years – a relatively normal time span for the music industry – since the indie experimental/psychedelic rock band Animal Collective released its last full-length album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” But for Animal Collective fans, that may seem like ages.
For a band that has released an album almost every year between 2000 and 2009, an unusual amount of time separated “Merriweather Post Pavilion” and “Centipede Hz.” Unfortunately, it seems as though Animal Collective used this time to develop an album that is unusual and confusing.
“Centipede Hz,” Animal Collective’s ninth studio album, is a far cry from the group’s previous record. While “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is a mellow record (as mellow as Animal Collective can get), “Centipede Hz” is a venture into a land of organized chaos, where loud crashes and an infusion of white noise and radio interference is considered “experimental” music. And at fifty-three minutes, this music journey is strenuous and tiring.
This dive into organized chaos is a place Animal Collective has been before. “Centipede Hz” is a return to the band’s louder, more frantic past. The record is filled with nonsensical wailing, out of sync instrumentals and busy theatrics. The psychedelic pop record has the power to paralyze and confuse the listener in the unhealthiest way.
In the album, Animal Collective left no stone unturned, no crevice unfilled. Each second is layered with shrieks and buzzes to annoyingly accompany the band’s lyrics and instrumentals. Every song is plush with noise, an effect that leaves a phony sensation after each listen.
Although a vast portion of the album is dedicated solely to busy and synthetic instrumentals, the music is also lyrical. Of Animal Collective’s two vocalists, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Avey Tare (David Portner), the former is far easier to listen to.
Unfortunately for the band and its fans, Portner occupies a majority of the songs, leaving Lennox and returning band member Deakin (Josh Dibb) to handle the rest. This heavy appearance of Portner is perhaps the most significant downfall of the album, as his ceaseless screaming is helping no one achieve a satisfying musical experience.
The lead single of the album, “Today’s Supernatural,” is one of the few correct choices the band made. After listening to this song, it is clear why the group chose it to precede the others. The combination of lyrics and noises, including a tolerable amount of wailing, embodies the band’s nature perfectly. It is a smart, accessible choice for the first single, one that loyal Animal Collective fans and relative newcomers will appreciate.
The rest of the album will unfortunately leave non-loyalists with a confused, nauseated feeling. The incessant clanging of drums, the high-pitched frequency of the radio interference and the jumbled lyrics are all a recipe for disaster for new listeners. Newcomers will be running for the hills, and most likely their iPods, for salvation from the racket the album produces. “Centipede Hz” is indeed an album for only the most devoted Animal Collective enthusiasts.
“Centipede Hz” is a peculiar listening experience. The never-ending bellowing is tough to hear past, and the radio interference is difficult to tune out. There is an endless number of other, more rewarding records, including earlier Animal Collective work.
In “Monkey Riches,” the eighth track on the album, Portner sings “(looking at the sun) makes me wanna wonder how I even wrote this song … doesn’t almost everyone!” Indeed, everyone will want to know how this misguided album ever came to fruition.