Animal Collective: Painting With

Animal Collective are overthinking it a bit, even by their standards.

- After covering a lot of ground over the past fifteen years with experiments in rhythm, texture, structure and melody, Animal Collective sans Deakin, have decided to give us an album “concerned with art”, however redundant that may seem. What I’m concerned with though, is that they’ve intellectualised this project from the get go.

Apparently, Painting With was inspired by art movements like Cubism and Dada which is kind of awkward because i thought that they’d already embraced these movements. How else would they compose the melodies they do without their larynx wrapping around their frontal lobe in order to reach their mouths which are located above their ears?

If anything, Painting With presents more like Warhol’s mass produced pop-art. Here you have twelve compact reproductions of the Animal Collective brand. Collectively, the songs average out at the golden three thirty, the pop standard and a lot if it is the most identifiable parts of the collective's individual strengths. Avey Tare’s penchant for incidental harmony and Panda Bear’s undeniable talent for weaving melodic motifs. It’s succinct and poppy and definitely psychedelic but I don’t connect with it.

You see, music has a fraught relationship with intellectualised art and the subsequent movements. You can utilise a certain practice and make music and the intellectualisation that follows will have little impact on perception but if you intellectualise first then make music, then derision will follow. Take Yoko Ono vs The Avalanches. Both can be appreciated through frameworks like Dada, postmodernism or deconstructionism and others. Yoko comes from an intellectual background and has come to express herself musically, the result being divisive. The Avalanches, however, are lovers of music first which used unconventional practices to create music. The result being lauded by both punters and intellectuals.

This is why this album, Painting With, is tricky - it’s trying to be both pop and heady art and it’s not convincing as either. While it is calculated and efficient, and as the album title suggests, accessible and accommodating, FloriDada and Golden Gal are the most conventional songs on the album, the rest are assemblages of recognisable parts. If Animal Collective really got it together they could render The Beatles and The Beach Boys obsolete, but there is hardly any compelling structure in this album: where are the hooks? When do I get to emote?! The colour and the buoyancy, the refractions and polyrhythms that make Animal Collective enjoyable are all in play but the album falls flat because there is no ballad in the middle for me to mope along with. I give it two out five toilet bowls.

- Nick Rodwell.

Album Details

Album Title: Painting With
Artist: Animal Collective
Record Label: (Domino / EMI)