I tried, I really did. I've spent the time since my last post listening to little but Animal Collective, in an attempt to fulfill what the great A.V. Club calls a “social obligation,” pieces of culture that the supposed enlightened among us are supposed to endorse, like watching The Wire or seeing Avatar in the theater. I've spent the last few years trying to at least appreciate Animal Collective, if not love them. After all, everyone else in the world does except for and they're supposed to be in the conversation for Best Band in the World, so I must be missing something, right?. But I've been re-listening to the most-played songs on lala and re-reading reviews, looking for clues as to just what it is that I'm missing about this band. I'm still looking. It's not that I don't like them, I just don't get the big deal.
“The Purple Bottle” was my introduction to AC, put on a mix tape given to me by a friend and I thought it was the delirious kind of upstart, chaotic rock-n-roll that I dig. I bought Feels, hoping for more of the same and while “Grass” is another great track in a similar vein, I couldn't help but think that the album feels (heh) like an anti-climatic Funeral. It's still a darn good record, and easily my favorite of their records. But as far as my listening habits are concerned, that's really not saying much. Feels may be like my 854th favorite record ever, but that also means I never listen to it.
Sung Tongs is where the Animal Collective really test my patience. Sometimes it's boring (“The Softest Voice”), (“Kids on Holiday”). Sometimes it's a bit grating and obnoxious (“Mouth Wooed Her”). Sometimes some of it is actually pretty okay (“Who Could Win a Rabbit”). There are songs I only like parts of (“Winter's Love”) but I found myself waiting for the end of the last song (“Whaddit I Done”).
Merriweather Post Pavillon is the one that all the kids and blogs and magazines named as the bestest record of 2009, according to metacritic. It's hailed as something ground-breaking by some but for a band as sonically adventurous as Animal Collective, they sure tend to stay in one place often. It's the AC's attempt at a dance album and to me, something of an acquired taste. It took well over a half a dozen plays by my ipod's count for this record to grow on me and even now, it's not something I'm sure I'll be coming back to often. But that doesn't mean MPP may not be like my 926th favorite record ever.
Of course, this blog wouldn't be living up to its name if there weren't some stray Animal Collective tracks that I don't remember downloading. “Slippi” and “Take” are monotonous and annoying, basically everything I hate about the AC but “People” is actually quite lovely, a rare moment in their discography where its repetitive bars are welcome. And “Baby Day” is bluesy, fun song, as close to rock-n-roll as the Animal Collective gets. It makes me wonder if I should be paying more attention to the b-sides and EP tracks instead of spending my music-listening minutes forcing myself to get into Animal Collective albums.
Animal Collective are nothing if not challenging. The rewards are there but immediacy shouldn't be expected. There's nothing wrong with weird, challenging bands and while I like weird and challenging, I'm also a child of the MTV era and an adult in the ipod era. Since I like instant gratificationy rock-n-roll, I tend to appreciate bands like Animal Collective much more than I listen to them.