Animal Collective’s break-through album Merriweather Post Pavilion burst like a piñata in early 2009, showering its glittery wonderment on house parties and sweaty car drives; stamping its sound on the Australian summer. It was the Baltimore four-piece’s most accessible, and best, record yet.
On its follow-up, the band’s signature psychedelic racket is inspired by old radio transmissions “now lost in space and broadcasting … for other life forms”. It explains the chaos of buzzing, bleeps, signals and static although the theme is surely a new reason to indulge old habits: Animal Collective have always pushed ‘busy’ to stratospheric levels. Busy, however, leads to burnout, a real risk when you’re five songs into a record that sounds like pop’s answer to math metal.
Yet against the odds there is melody and, among the noise, gorgeous songs about tropical fruit, the family car and being a new dad. Early tracks ‘Moonjock’ and ‘Applesauce’ favour pounding power chords and implosions of sound over Merriweather’s spaciousness. Meanwhile, a seagull squawk is sampled to great effect on ‘Rosie Oh’.
Beyond such observations, it feels pointlessly reductive to separate the strands of songs that make an artform of euphoric density. It’s best left to singer Avey Tare to sum up the listening experience in the opening lines of ‘Today’s Supernatural’. “Come on let go, erratic see saw / This exploding young brain, gone and blown me out again”.