Centipede Hz album review
Animal Collective struck the popular music scene with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, their ninth album after a solid decade’s worth of collaborative efforts from David “Avey Tare” Portner, Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox, and Brian “Geologist” Weitz. Merriweather Post Pavillion was released to great attention and subsequent praise, leaving more than a few copycats in its wake. Naturally, with its overwhelming success (the album reached the Top 20 in the US) came the anticipation of something new. The Baltimore-bred, NYC-based band followed through, even welcoming old member Josh “Deakin” Gibb back to help with their latest record, released on September 4, called Centipede Hz.
But fans be warned: if you’re looking for another Merriweather, this isn’t it. By no means is this a sequel or a reinvention of the old, like many were expecting. And honestly, this fact shouldn’t be too surprising considering the band’s extensive history of genre-hopping and experimental sound.
“They have a new style [compared to Merriweather Post Pavillion], but I think that it’s heading in a good direction,” sophomore Abby Godinez says, referring to the gap in continuity between the critically acclaimed Merriweather and their latest work.
A new style indeed. The album begins with a full on sensory overload right off the bat, wasting absolutely no time. “Moonjock” is the abrasive first track, and it lurches headfirst into the record with chanting vocals drowned out by electronic waste. It quickly escalates into a gritty harmony of indecipherable lyrics and angry, pulsating beats.
Listeners may be put-off by such jolting sound. “Moonjock” and the second song on Centipede, “Today’s Supernatural,” seem to be intent on eroding the senses. These opening tracks almost seem to serve as a warning to those that dare venture into the thick.
“Let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let-let GO!” Avey Tare shouts on the latter, stuttering violently before plunging into something of a chorus, a droning harmonica and shivering rattlesnake-tails edging around the syllables he stomps on. This particular song, which was released as a single in late July, eventually settles into something typically unsettling. It’s raw but still moves sporadically: “erratic see-saw,” he even drawls over gargling beats. It takes one sole listen for one to realize why this was chosen as the debut single.
Gradually Centipede gets into something of a groove, finding a way to weave bizarre things together into a sense of unity. Despite this, the songs themselves are just as inscrutable and at times aggravatingly overpowering. “Rosie Oh” has vocals sweet and earnest, but they’re contradicted by a sound that is best described as “folky spaceship.” “Father Time” is smooth yet unsatisfying; it leads us up to the holy chorus but doesn’t exactly follow through, instead smothering itself in more and more frivolous and frustratingly intricate bleeps and bloops. It acts as a wind-up toy soldier, going and going until it tires of itself and slows to a standstill.
But that isn’t to say that all of the tracks are lacking something substantial. Along with “New Town Burnout,” “Wide Eyed” stands out as one of those that compliment the cosmic style rather pleasingly. This song listens like an ocean of static with slowly rolling waves, complete with soaring vocals courtesy of Deakin and underwater beats bubbling to the surface rhythmically. “Wide Eyed” sounds as if Animal Collective is strumming their fingers on a harp made of buttons and dials instead of strings.
Another deserving track is the closing one, “Amanita.” A whirlpool of hostile guitar, synth, and vocals, it exemplifies the very thing that Centipede Hz seems to have set out to represent: a confusing and thrilling sound that leaves people reeling. It’s on this ending note that makes one want to head back up to “Moonjock” and listen to the entire thing all over again. Without “Amanita,” the record would seem horribly incomplete. Centipede really closes on a favorable note.
Of course, music is always subjective and while some will praise the alien aesthetic that lingers throughout the record in murmurs and hums, others may dismiss these tracks for what they are: complex. It leaves one to wonder whether all of this loud noise can be construed into something pleasing or just remain a dizzying sensation of garish color. Can something be so in-your-face that it becomes boring halfway through?
PCHS sophomore student Adam Snyder echoes a fair amount of listeners as he speaks of indecisiveness. “I think their new album offers a radically new style and I have yet to decide whether or not I like it,” he admits.
He’s not alone. Many have argued that Centipede’s sound is too cluttered, and that beneath the dense fabrication of all the niceties these are fairly conventional and even unimpressive songs. But on the other hand, just as many consider Animal Collective to be musical gods, hailing their broad spectrum of elements and innovation.
Certainly Animal Collective is a daring band, for Centipede Hz is essentially the equivalent of throwing paint on the walls. It’s up to you to decide whether you think that the result is carefully constructed art, or, well, too messy to function. Whatever your take on the psychedelic uproar that bursts from this record, there’s one thing that’s generally undeniable: it’s groundbreaking.