I realize, of course, that Animal Collective is one of the most divisive bands in the indie world, admittedly acknowledging that I’m the only on this site that has any interest in the group. So I set out to listen to Centipede Hz aiming to prove a point, hoping to convince my partners that there’s something worthwhile about this band and their recent album. Honestly, I struggled, barely making it past the first song on the first few listens.
“Moonjock” is an awful choice for an opener. It’s possibly one of the worst recorded songs I’ve heard from this band, with little focus in the way of song construction. At times it’s grating, and at other moments, it’s just plain awful. But, while I can’t stand this song, I found a little bit of solace in the following track, “Today’s Supernatural.” It’s not going to catch you with powerful hook-laden beats, such as the group’s done before, but the basic outline of the song does work to a certain extent. However, the group seems to get lost in the plot with the extensive shouting, and then it sort of falls out flat.
As a fan of the band, I was looking for that statement track on Centipede Hz, sort of like “My Girls.” While it may not have the lofty pop moments, “Applesauce” is probably the standout track in a record with so few. The vocal effect here isn’t quite as offensive, and the hidden melody does appease my ears; they’re also as playful and joyous as the group can be at the best of times. If I had to pick another track that fit into a similar place on this album, then I’d probably pick “Pulleys,” although this is the most un-Animal Collective track to my ears. It’s almost holds onto a dream-pop quality, but the weak percussion holds the track back just a bit, keeping it from being a true star here.
Each time I listen, something new pops up, which typically is a great thing for any music listener, but these aren’t necessarily great things that reveal themselves to me, rather they’re the elements of what seems like a tired formula. For instance, on “New Town Burnout,” you’re going to find the percussion/drum loop uninspired, and the vocals don’t do much more to aid the cause. Or, maybe you’ll go to the miserable vocal performance on “Wide Eyed.” I’m not sure what I dislike about it necessarily, but for a group that’s made their name fitting erratic vocals into careful pop construction, this seems rather lackluster.
All in all, I definitely have a few songs on Centipede Hz that I can enjoy in the near future. But, that being said, I will definitely stand by the fact that this is the first Animal Collective record that’s probably not ever going to be played again on my record player from start to finish. There are simply too many songs in this collection that are unlistenable, which I’ll admit makes me sad. I didn’t expect a repeat performance after Merriweather Post Pavilion, but I definitely had something stronger in my dreams than this. Perhaps their formulaic (albeit an abstract formula) writing style has run its course. Perhaps the band has run its course. Only time will tell, but at least we’ll always have records like Feels to fall back on.