Tucked among a kaleidoscopic tumble of swirling, jumbled faces and slightly bemused-looking monoliths, Animal Collective are back in the capital, and they’re busy pushing their luck. A swirling crowd is theirs for the taking; The Troxy is rammed to the turquoise art-deco rafters with dedicated super-fans. The thing is, Animal Collective don’t give a great deal back tonight.
A band of sonic experimenters who revel in the absurd and unpredictable, Animal Collective’s hallmark is defying expectation. As their pivotal record ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ shape-shifted them into an act capable of commanding vast, looming venues just like tonight’s host, they’ve also found themselves faced with a perhaps unexpected conundrum - popularity. During their ‘Centipede Hz.’ live outings back in 2012, the artsy rabble seemed to find a see-saw balance between osmosis-merging deep cuts, less familiar new material, and the instant, undeniable magic of immortal gems like ‘My Girls’ and ‘Brother Sport’. Far from seeming like inward-looking weirdos with an impenetrable agenda, they flung open the door to their barmy, bonkers tangle of surrealism. Dashing between spaceship desks, and grinning from ear to ear, the Baltimore band affirmed their status as one of the most important, and exciting bands around. It’s sometimes an overlooked quality, accessibility. Back then, they nailed it.
Forever pushing forward and pursuing newness in every form, it’s no real surprise that - as ever - the focus for this tour is firmly trained on the palette-splurges and sonic collages of two month old record ‘Painting With’. Samples from the Golden Girls telly show, drawn-out, fantastical trances of improvisation, and the pogoing ‘Lying in the Grass’ all jostle for space, bordering on a popping candy overdose. The backdrop swirls and glitches restlessly like a robotic unicorn with motion-sickness has just vommed all over the shop. Avey Tare, Geologist, and Panda Bear are all equally introspective; twiddling squelching dials, and colliding static with whirling splats of pop melody. Operating less like a conventional show, and more like an uninterrupted club set, applause rises up in waves as the music dulls, but never dies.
Motoring on a slightly phoned-in constant – occasionally diving down a back alley towards decidedly off the chart ‘Feels’ tracks ‘Loch Raven’ and ‘Bees’ - Animal Collective’s sweet-spot of euphoria never arrives. ‘FloriDada’ is saved, bizarrely, as the icing on a throughly underwhelming encore which, elsewhere, consists of debut album cut ‘Alvin Row’ and a decidedly left-of-field ‘Merriweather’ visit to the land of ‘Daily Routine’. It’s one of just a few throwaway, unconvincing glances backward. There’s no question about it; Animal Collective are being wilfully obscure. It’s an act that grows old very quickly.
Photos: Jonathan Dadds
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