Defending The Indefensible: Animal Collective
It's my pleasure and privilege to welcome Everett True to the Something Awful music staff. True started writing about music back in 1983, for New Musical Express and Melody Maker, but I first became familiar with his work as a reader of Seattle's weekly The Stranger in 1998. I noticed not only his distinctive voice, but also the way responses to his columns crowded the paper's letters section, and how the feedback extended beyond the usual "you're wrong, this band is good!" or "how did you leave Bad Religion's Suffer off your year-end Top Ten list?" rants that I saw in the reader mail section of my local daily paper. (OK, I wrote the Suffer letter.) People were actually engaging in critical, analytic discussions, in which they considered the relevant cultural context and made the effort to describe why they liked or disliked an artist, and it was True's provocative work that elevated the level of discourse. I trust he'll be doing the same thing here as a regular contributor. -- Andrew "Garbage Day" Miller
Everett True will start producing new content for Something Awful later this month. As an introduction, though, here's a revamped reprint of his highly polarizing article about a band that has long been #1 on SA readers' bash-request list.
It's OK. Really, it's OK.
None of us like to be associated with those chicks with their tits hanging halfway out of their bra-straps, teetering down the Valley on four-inch white high heels. So we can't be caught liking what they listen to (probably Lady Gaga or Britney). None of us want to be seen hanging with the lads who think it's a laugh-riot to see how far a wall can splatter blood. So fuck their taste (probably Chili Peppers or Nirvana). Your parents, they're old. They like songs that have melodies and structures and stuff (probably Weezer or Blondie or Beck). Crap, how '90s. Secretly, in your heart of hearts, you want to keep listening to Radiohead's OK Computer but you know that your beard-growing college chums would despise you if they knew, even though they all feel exactly the same. Really, all you want to do is have a few brews and chill out, and not have anybody freak you out with loud noises.
It's OK. Honestly.
You should never feel ashamed of liking music, not even if you favor a band as derivative, irrelevant, unimaginative and collegiate as Animal Collective. It's up to you. Really, it is. If they're special to you, then that's just fine. That's great. So what if the one idea that Animal Collective had - to spill beer on their copy of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and then sing tunelessly along in the background over the occasional vomit of acoustic guitar - was thought up in a Brooklyn stoner haze, bumming someone else's joint?
It's your choice, man. (Do the vocals sound so muffled because of all those beards and wooly jumpers?) It's a mark of good taste to be seen listening to Animal Collective, isn't it? They're Supertramp (minus the tunes) for the '00s.
Hey, wait a second. I've got a joke for you.
What do you call a music forum user who refuses to make vaguely homophobic remarks? Gay.
You can laugh at that, because you're being ironic - right? And good on you, man. A finely developed sense of humour is one of the trademark characteristics of an Animal Collective fan. Do you like this one as well? Someone once wrote to me that "A fellow I know once stated that the Animal Collective are at the apex of what he termed the 'skipping-CD Beach Boys meets the Lion King soundtrack' age. Recently he informed me that era was finished, and the 'record your girl-group songs in Pro-Tools then add distortion to make them lo-fi' epoch was now upon us."
Laugh at that one, too? Good on you. You've got to love an indie kid with a sense of humour. Now, just for fun, how about we list a few reasons why you should perhaps think about switching your allegiances from Animal Collective to a semi-decent band that doesn't think the high point of Western Civilisation is the invention of the bong ...
- Never trust or deify a band that is held up as a benchmark of radicalism by the mainstream. What the fuck does the mainstream know? There's a reason it's the mainstream. And the reason is because it seeks not to upset the status quo. The past three Animal Collective albums have been rubbish, and no one seems to care. It would be enough that they exist and are standard-bearers for Pitchfork music, except that every last fucking Web site and broadsheet newspaper on earth covers them as well. Animal Collective are like the patron saints of every mainstream 'alternative' music site going ... and if that's not reason enough to hate them, I don't know what is.
- It is neither big nor clever to record your music in the middle of a wind tunnel.
- Animal Collective has ruined music for a generation with their semi-ironic stances, lack of bass, and disengagement with their audience. A band should be vital, an antidote to something, which AC aren't. Whatever the merits of Animal Collective back whenever they last produced anything of worth, now everyone (everyone that counts, i.e. THE FUCKING OMNIPRESENT INDIE ALPHA MALE) believes they need to grow a beard, act all pompous and po-faced, lift from spiritual and gospel traditions without understanding for one second what makes those traditions so vital, and behave as dully as a glass of particularly dispirited dishwater. It's a short distance from Animal Collective to Bon Iver to Fleet Foxes. Blame Brian Wilson.
- Separated at birth: Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Animal Collective. How do you tell these bands apart from middle distance? Squint a lot? Playing your song for a mind-numbingly long time does not make it your song any better or more important or more soulful than a song that's over and done in two minutes. It simply means you like playing your songs for a mind-numbingly long time. How the hell were we supposed to concentrate on the trailer for that Spike Jonze movie about the kid with multiple personality disorder with that awful din wailing in the background? That was Animal Collective, right?
- It's great being enraptured of the moment. Might be nice to get in somebody who can actually sing to articulate your joy/despair/merriment etc, though. There's a reason why Ramones' first album and Billy Childish (on form) and This Heat's second are so great. There's a reason folk love The Beach Boys, even folk who normally eschew such 'trivial' devices as the pop song, read The Wire and consider themselves (spit) 'hip' (though of course they wouldn't be so gauche to use such a description). All those bands concentrated on the NOISE, the FORM, the SOUND, but not to the detriment of the SONG.
- Deerhunter can fuck off, too -- Volcano The Bear, as well.
Thanks to Shmorky for the illustrations! Check out more of Everett True's writing here.