Merriweather Post Pavilion, live show controversy (sorta) and the paradox of a kinda adult Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavilion, the new album from Animal Collective, is certainly exceptional. And the talk of the music world–big and small. Today  the New York Times did a review of both the first NYC show (Merriweather debut date) and the album.  Not to mention Spin and Rolling Stone…and, before the mainstream media got on it, Pitchfork was praising the hell out of when it leaked.  Animal Collective–both live and recorded–have broken out of college pot clouded dorm rooms and into the forefront of “Indie.” Or as UK magazine Uncut reviewer writes aptly:

“Whether this bliss is chemical or shamanic, what’s clear is that Animal Collective have truly surpassed themselves. MPP isn’t just an advance on Sung Tongs and Feels – it feels like that moment in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon jumps into hyperspace and all the stars go wild….Maybe the overwhelming, full-throated joy of it all sounds particularly radiant in the fluey gloom of winter, but right now Merriweather Post Pavilion doesn’t just seem like one of the first great records of 2009, it feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far.”

High praise–but not undeserved.

I can say after seeing their invigorating, joyful and yet very mature show last night that live they d0 not disappoint. At least if you think like I do (and Uncut and Pitchfork…oh and Stereogum...shall I continue?), that Merriweather Post Pavilion is one of the few brights spots in a cold, ailing winter of 09. But for some reason there are dissidents in the blogosphere (and the New York Times) who seem to disagree. I guess because AC has this rep for being a jam band-cum-Burning Man tribal rave freakout where they go hours for hours playing songs that aren’t even recorded yet, oddly stringent expectations were set for a hippie hoedown. Which it was not–it was controlled and yes, a bit melancholy at times. However, I’d say all this hate is undue. Mostly the vibe was soaring so high last night it hit a heaven that, well, I don’t even really believe in (it even helped me deal with the smell of unwashed tie-dye–that part of the AC myth, the Grateful Dead-like fanbase, is true).

The New York Times seem to think the band looked bored; a terribly written review on self-titled mag.com claims: “Avey Tare stretched his phrases so much they threatened to lose all meaning—and defiantly depressing that it made me wish the merch table sold Prozac.” Why the hate on contemplation in vocalization? Sorry if your E-dealer got busted last week, but no need to take it out on AC with poorly constructed, inane reviews like this! I’ll leave it to my friend Ian to rebuttle: “This person doesn’t seem to know that Animal Collective shows have always been about testing new material, not playing old stuff, so in that respect, this was by far the most different kind of show they’ve ever played, since it relied almost entirely on material that has been recorded…”

There lies the paradox–critics are upset because an unpredictable band was, well, for them, unpredictable? Sheesh. Also, have music critics and blogger music hipster douches not noticed the times are pretty grim? Even the ebullience of Barack Obama’s inauguration earlier was tinged with anxiety because of problems in economy and the war. I thought the “Banshee Beat” encore (source of much Internet debate) was not a downer but merely a contemplative, abstract, mind-fucking finale. It was mind fucking because it was not like what was recorded—it was about 8 times slower than the album version, which itself is quite quiet and sad. What a great way to send off old fans satisfied and new ones confused and totally screwing over the argument that they can’t riff on old material or recreate/improvise onstage anymore.

Anyhow, I am going to stop at that because I’m actually a relatively new Animal Collective fan and honestly can’t speak more to that subject except to praise the show and the album with an almost Christ-worshipping new convert glee. Pre-Strawberry Jam I always thought of them as a band that was best left to the tree-worshippers. Of course, after a proper AC education (and a serious addiction to “Fireworks” for the latter half of 2007) I know the error of my ways, but still I’m not an Animal Collective expert who has seen them four or five times.

Good or bad, AC are certainly catering to new fans by concentrating on new material as they did last night. Sometimes new fans are really shitty–like people who like Brian Eno because he produces Coldplay. However, I hardly think that is the case here, since the new fans are the kind of people who really appreciate a “wildly experimental” (thanks NPR) album about taking care of your family and loving your wife and yet still seemingly like an acid tripping teenager in love.

Swaying my head to the gorgeous layers of sound and harmony in Panda Bear’s daddy love ode “My Girls” I thought: this is soundtrack of what I want in the afterlife. Lucky for Aveytar, Geologist, and Panda Bear they hear it/feel it/make it every day on earth.

video of last night’s show courtesy of AM374

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2 responses to “Merriweather Post Pavilion, live show controversy (sorta) and the paradox of a kinda adult Animal Collective

  1. Hey there–

    I’m that “stupid e-addicted neo hippie asshole.” First off, just wanted to clarify that I am neither a hippie nor addicted to Ecstasy. Am I an asshole? That’s not for me to judge.

    Also wanted to state that I’ve actually seen Animal Collective more than your friend Ian: a good six or seven times since their tour with Black Dice in 2004. So I have some context with which to make my comments. I know that they usually test new material at their gigs—I mention that in my review—and simply stated that the live versions of their old songs made it hard to discern what kind of music they might make next.

    Anyway, I at no point said the show was bad last night. I was simply comparing it to the many Animal Collective gigs I’d seen before. And no doubt about it, the ones staged around ‘Feels’ were incredible, as they were just starting to test ‘Strawberry Jam’ stuff then and really toying with the potential of the ‘Feels’ record.

    -ap

  2. Hey dude,

    Sorry I was actually editing it to make it a bit less harsh…taking out the asshole part and all. But the point is that I like to document controversy and the show did seem to bring out a mini indie controversy (AC play songs from the album they are promoting! Eee gads!). I don’t usually blog about bands I don’t know that well (obviously I don’t know AC nearly as well as you do, nor do my friends, a fact which you quite enjoy pointing out!) but in this case I am sort of in the minority–a new Animal Collective fan with no opinion but “golly gee aren’t they amazing?”

    So I’m not gonna play the “I’ve seen them so many times more than you blah blah blah” game–even if I could I wouldn’t cause that’s what blogs like yours are for, right? But I was moved by the show and the album also deserves all the praise it is getting which is really quite rare…any snob or no snob will admit to that.

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