By Patrick Cavanaugh, Features Editor
Three years after the pristine, poppy and brilliant album Merriweather Post Pavilion, avant-psychedelic outfit Animal Collective is going crazy.
Centipede Hz, the latest effort from the Baltimore quartet, represents a shift in style from hooky noise-pop to a frenzied pagan freak-out.
But Animal Collective never stays in one place for too long. The decade long project of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin (calm down, those aren’t their real names), has pushed boundaries with each release.
Centipede Hz is no different.
On “Today’s Supernatural,” the lead single from Centipede Hz, Avey Tare urges listeners to “le-le-le-le-le-le-le-le-let go!”
What follows is four minutes of chaotic synths, tribal drums and gleefully absurd lyrics (what exactly is a “bionic hee-haw,” anyway?).
The rest of Centipede Hz follows this style.
Animal Collective is letting go, riding a wave of psychedelic insanity and asking listeners to join them. For the most part, the ride is a joy.
Opener “Moonjock” moves all over the place, but never becomes a mess. The song begins with a jarring electronic sting before transitioning into a rhythmic psychedelic jam filled with glitchy samples and a drum-line breakdown.
If this sounds strange and chaotic, that’s because it is. But Animal Collective executes the chaos in a captivating way.
“Rosie Oh” takes a slightly funkier turn while retaining the same crazy feel.
Twangy guitar slides over a syncopated rhythm as Panda Bear denies a hypothetical offer to take a ride from a stranger by singing, “I’d rather not.”
It’s the most clear-cut and catchy song on the album, but doesn’t lose sight of the album’s chaotic style.
“Applesauce,” an album highlight, combines infantile lyrics with ruminations on mortality. “I eat a mango and I’m feeling like a little honey can roll,” sings Avey Tare while piano arpeggios rise and fall.
These sweet sounds are saturated and undercut by distorted electronic noises, creating a sense of dissonance as Tare continues, “It seems we all can’t last.”
Mortality isn’t a new topic for artists to deal with, but Animal Collective brings a fresh take to the subject.
For all of Centipede Hz’s brilliance, the chaotic ride becomes tedious in the album’s middle. “Father Time” is a forgettable, repetitive song. The noisy chaos in “Monkey Riches” doesn’t captivate so much as aggravate.
Animal Collective’s ambition keeps Centipede Hz from being another masterpiece.
At 53 minutes, the album runs too long for its own good. There’s a point when the pagan freak-out stops being novel and becomes a chore.
But Animal Collective manages to work through the tedious section and end strong.
Second-half song “Mercury Man” sounds, as Avey Tare says in the opening line, “Like machines talking to me on the phone.” It’s robotic yet lively, and an enjoyable listen.
Animal Collective takes many risks on Centipede Hz, most of which pay off.
But take caution: if you’re expecting the same blissful pop of Merriweather, you’re bound to be disappointed.
If you take Centipede Hz as it is, you’ll be surprised by how enjoyable it can be. The album is a little overlong, but Animal Collective’s crazed joyride is one worth taking, if you’re willing to let go.