Animal Collective: Overrated

With a rarely awarded solid A, the Onion A.V. Club recently joined the endless parade of media outlets and tastemakers heaping praise upon Animal Collective. Pitchfork gave the band’s new album Merriweather Post Pavilion an equally uncommon (though somewhat less reliable) rating of 9.6. Even NPR joined the fray with an All Things Considered report that convinced my wife, who’d never even heard of the band before, that we NEEDED to own the new record. My response? Sure, when we get around to it.

I’ve heard most of the new album, and yeah, it’s good. But not that good. Not Radiohead good, not Arcade Fire good, not TV on the Radio good. Ever since 2004’s Sung Tongs people have been hyping this band, and the buzz around Merriweather Post Pavilion — even if it is their best yet — feels like the obligatory cluster-fuck before the inevitable hipster backlash (you knew about them first, did you?).

Here’s a note I wrote to my friend, among the throngs of music fans recently introduced to the band, about their sound: “they’re like the beach boys on a shitload of acid. it’s really experimental (apparently the latest is the most accessible, hence the most popular), but also has some beautiful melodies and vocal harmonies woven in. a lot of it isn’t typical song structure, just a 3 or 4 minute jam of sorts. i haven’t heard the new one everyone is pissing their pants about, but i will probably buy it.” Yes, like so many newbies and longtime fans alike, I will probably buy it — but not until the hype dies down, and only then to check out the cool optical illusion on the front cover.

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