Review: Animal Collective’s bizarre ‘Centipede Hz’ misses the mark

Meghan Frick

The following reflects the opinions of the author. 

Animal Collective has never been accused of being the most accessible band on the planet. With their new album, “Centipede Hz” (released Sept. 4), they’ve continued their trend of innovation, with mixed results.

The opening song, “Moonjock,” is spacey, rambling, rock. There’s a mumbling quality to the verses and a vaguely poppy chorus and, in terms of drawing in the listener, it’s successful. The heavy, almost dirty cymbals that start the song off make it hard not to tap your feet.

“Today’s Supernatural” changes course back toward Animal Collective’s more familiar sampled and synthesized qualities. The song also shows off one of the band’s main love-it-or-hate-it characteristics: a heavy use of repeated or looped sound bytes and phrases with little or no variation. It’s at once one of their most successful features and one of my biggest complaints.

This may have something to do with Animal Collective’s somewhat-unorthodox recording style, which involves picking the samples and basic melodies of the songs first, then recording the entire album during a two-week period. It’s then that they decide what the actual instrumentation is going to be.

The result is an album full of tracks that carry a lot of energy and power while maintaining a tribal, chanting quality.

“Today’s Supernatural” is a good example of when this works well: “Le-le-le-le-le-le-let it go!” is just awesome.

On the other hand, “Applesauce” shows how easy it is for it to become obscenely annoying. “I ate a mango and I’m feeling like a little honey can roll/A star fruit so simple and I’m feeling like a little honey can roll” is one of the most obnoxious things I’ve ever heard.

“Centipede Hz” slows down at the middle around “Applesauce” and “Wide Eyed,” but isn’t much worse off for it.

After the song “Father Time” — excepting “Money Riches,” which is just plain bad-ass — the album more or less tapers out. It almost seems like the band’s already blown off all their steam at this point and forgotten to save any for the end.

Not that the songwriting goes downhill. The last few songs themselves are fine, they’re just unremarkable.

I did enjoy that the otherwise-anticlimactic final track, “Amanita,” builds at the very end into a stream of random voices and sound bytes. It all meshes together well and brings the album to a satisfying close, not with a whisper or a bang but with, true to Animal Collective form, a primal, robotic scream.

All in all, Animal Collective’s new album is a mishmash of genres that fits in with none of them, and never tries. The songs are either fast-paced and frenetic or possess a kind of kind of mellow, drug-addled excitement, both of which work excellently, except for when they don’t.

Several of these songs are sure to become favorites of mine, but the sheer sameness of the songs, and the overall disinterest I felt toward the second half of the album both keep me from giving it a higher rating.

It’s still worth checking out, though, and if you like any of the songs at all, I urge you to check out some of their previous work: “Strawberry Jam” and the critically-acclaimed “Merriweather Post Pavilion.”

You may find a new favorite yourself.

Story: R. SCOTT MORRIS, Intern A&E Reporter