Reviews: Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP

I’ve never understood the appeal of Animal Collective. I like strange music – hell, I like most music full stop. My taste is broad yet discerning; I don’t pick and choose between the genres, I just like the best of the genres. I do like bands like Sunset Rubdown and The Arcade Fire, though – bands that, like Animal Collective, aim high. They aim to create an atmosphere as well as a melody, and those two bands pull it off admirably (in SS‘s case, most notably on debut Shut Up I Am Dreaming…, and in AF‘s case pretty much all the time). Animal Collective, however, are just annoying. I checked out 2005’s Feels and was too enraged to listen beyond the second song. Since then, I’ve repeatedly heard good – no, great – things about them. Time to bow to peer pressure and at least have a listen to Animal Collective’s latest release, the EP Fall Be Kind.

On Fall opener Grace, the Collective build and build and build and then launch into a ridiculous, jaunty piece of plinky pop that is impossible to listen to without scrunching up your nose in distaste. This nose scrunching continues for around one minute, at which point we fade back into fuzzy nothingness. Second track What Would I Want? Sky takes a long time to get to something resembling a song but when it finally does, it constantly shifts tempo and beat and becomes more a challenge to endure than a piece of music to enjoy. Bleed is marginally better, a hazy haunting three-minute-long hum that at least sticks to one time signature. On A Highway is reminiscent of Graze; in fact, it’s almost identically structured. Simply replace the stupid upbeat verses of Graze with non-annoying low-key ones and you have On A Highway.

Fall Be Kind did nothing to endear me to Animal Collective. Their appeal still mystifies. Their sound is abrasive and difficult to listen to, let alone enjoy, and they seem to eschew not only hooks but any kind of melody. This isn’t experimental, it’s indulgent.

– Ben Vernel


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