Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Chattering Classes


Animal Collective
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: Animal Collective
Album: Sung Tongs
Source: Bought used

One of the (many many many) downsides of the modern mass-media age is something that’s usually mislabeled as “too much information.” Everyone thinks we’re getting too much input, but the real problem is that we’re getting too much of the same input. If there’s a new movie coming out, you’ll not only read/see/hear a ton of interviews/reviews, but they’ll all be more or less the same. Artists don’t really get a wide variety of questions during all the interviews they do, and even the savviest person will start to give the same answers over and over.

The part where this bugs the record buyer in me is when I read/see/hear so much of the same thing about a new record that, before I’ve heard the record, I feel like I’ve heard it too much. I remember skipping Tortoise’s TNT because, even though I dug the hell out of their Millions… disc, by the time it was in stores I’d read versions of the same thing in Magnet, Puncture, The Village Voice, The Philadelphia Weekly and any number of websites and other media outlets. Never heard a note of the thing (still haven’t, too), and I was already sick of it.

This info glut nearly got me with Animal Collective. This was a band I read/saw/heard way too much about before being able to give them a proper hearing. The Other Music crowd was all atwitter about the band, and after a few albums way below the radar, Sung Tongs was the one that started to get lots of ink (real and virtual) from everyone from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone to (I swear) Time.

But I was determined not to miss this one, because all that media coverage – being essentially all the same – kept hitting a lot of notes that were theoretical music to my ears. The writers and pushers wanted to sell me this band, and the bait they dropped sure smelled good.

The disc didn’t disappoint, either (or even just get smothered by its own hype). Sung Tongs is weird and mysterious, while also being accessible enough to make sense a little after it hits your ear. It’s loose and structured, noisy and quiet, natural and oddly contrived. The rhythms and melodies and harmonies all do their own jobs and each other’s, and long tracks like “Visiting Friends” don’t fall apart any more than tight tunes like “Who Could Win a Rabbit” might meander a bit. Everything hangs together, and it’s not entirely clear how or why. But it makes you glad to give it a listen, every time, especially away from the chattering classes.

SISOSIG? This is a keeper, but I also think it’s “enough.” That is, I still read/see/hear about the band’s newer material, but right now I feel like this one does the job for anytime I’m in the singular Animal Collective Mood.

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