I was recently contacted by a well-mannered fan of the band regarding an offhand comment highlighting the fact that these dudes aren’t my most favourite collective in the world. You can see it in the previous post to this one. So I thought I’d clear a few things up.
Now, at first I was a tad confused as to why someone would question the integrity of the “journalism” featured on NEO//NOIR. Here’s a publication with zero advertisements, a single contributor, and no other web presence except a twitter with a meagre following. It all serves to highlight the very obvious fact that of course this blog reflects a single opinion, and more than that, if you’re reading through any music website / magazine / review and thinking “Man, this is objective!” then it’s time to wake the fuck up sweetheart, because you’re living in a dreamworld.
Now, to the matter at hand. Why I take issue with Animal Collective. I’m going to use Anonymous' comments as a backbone of my responses here, because he's had the courage to write a full name, express himself clearly and politely, and most importantly; not get emotional.
It’s no secret that NEO//NOIR generally features the smaller acts over the bigger ones, you don’t want to read about the new Wavves song or the fact that both he and Neon Indian are now signed to a fucking soda company record label. You can read that everywhere else on the internet. You don’t want to read about the awful new Radiohead album, about how they bravely restructured the whole music industry with their “pay what you want” model after six massively successful major label albums and millions in the bank from extensive world tours to fall back on. You can, and do, read these sorts of things everywhere.
These are bands that have a huge amount of coverage and an ever growing, frankly massive fan-base. While in many cases, acclaim is duly earned, like in the case of half of every Radiohead album to date or the inescapable catchiness of a Two Door Cinema Club song, at other times we are witnessing what is called the Bandwagon Effect in action.
Great examples of this include anything by The Arcade Fire and most publicly for Animal Collective, My Girls. What you have here is a few people with either a valid, justified love for the band, or the critical clout to sway public opinion; expressing a view that is, through aspirations of a particular image, or worse, convenience; adopted by the masses.
This creates a pressure on the band to deliver a product that lives up to the hype-machine’s exponential hyperbole. It also sets off warning sirens in my head and makes me ask “Well, what’s so great about these guys?” When the overwhelming recommendation to get into a band is "smoke some drugs first", you start to wonder if it’s more about the idea of the band, the convenience and self-fulfilling prophecy, than the music itself. Joy Division.
And I do glorify the “image-obsessed” direction of WU LYF. That’s a fact. It’s a huge facet of their persona as a band and to condemn it would be flying in the face of your own argument. Animal Collective’s members all use alternate, pretentious monikers on stage and in their solo releases, and have carefully constructed over a long career an air of eccentricities and a complete disregard for time signatures. They use album covers with optical illusions (above) to which Pitchfork eloquently and professionally responded to with; "Whoa dude. WHOA DUDE. Whoa. Dude.”
Every band has an image, whether it’s the major label-pleasing clean cut look recently adopted by Kings Of Leon or the on-stage masks of Slipknot. In fact, if you aren’t image obsessed, you risk blending into the crowd of people with talent but no vision, doomed to have a myspace music page with 300 total plays in two years.
As for the music itself, I will admit that Fireworks is a brilliant song. It loses something in the middle there where AnCo have to get all weird and change the sound completely, but all in all, it’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking to have their life enriched. But I know part of what resonated with me so strongly in regards to Fireworks is how it was this amazing track with some god damn melody, surrounded by a whole album of messy, directionless wank.
AnCo’s live performances reflect this hit and miss attitude of the band with some being compelling and others being a disaster that alienates the entire crowd. The tough thing about a jam band is including the audience when performing live, the whole nature of the jam is so personal and esoteric that you can’t bring it to a live venue successfully without melody and restraint to hold it together. It reminds me of why I have never seen The Vines live, even though I love their first two albums. I don’t want to waste my money on a performance that might be good. And when you’re a big a band as Animal Collective, or the perennial and forever inspirational U2, live performances should be science as much as art.
But it’s not even Animal Collective’s fault for this, it’s yours, as a fan, for being so blind as to verbally abuse someone, and suggest they frequently perform physiologically impossible acts of self-fellatio simply for expressing a lighthearted opinion differing to your own. You’re making these guys look bad when you act this way in regards to them. They aren’t the second coming, they aren’t peerless innovators, they are just a band, an at times very competent band, but not one deserving of the rabid fanbase they have acquired.
I’m reminded of the Christians violently defending The Church as soon as someone speaks ill of it, yet still knocking on your door every Saturday morning in the hope you might suddenly be swayed to the cause through a pamphlet of material and a sunny disposition. And like the victims of organised religion, maybe it’s time to start asking yourself; Do I really believe in this, or am I just doing as I’m told?.