I’m not sure it’s schadenfreude, but I have been waiting for the critical masses to sour on Animal Collective. It seemed about time for the lovefest to end. I wouldn’t call the reviews to “Centipede hz” damning, but they’re certainly lukewarm, which apparently means “THEY’RE SO OVER!” in the pop culture canon.
What really irritated me in the AV Club’s review was the opening paragraph:
“… Animal Collective has always tried to leave signs of pop sensibility buried underneath, as if the group were determined to use the language of emotion to make purely cerebral statements. Because of that, Animal Collective isn’t a band that anyone either likes or dislikes; it’s a band that listeners either get or don’t.”
Not only does “language of emotion” making “cerebral statements” sound like absolute gibberish (I can hear the face palms of a thousand literature professors), pushing the idea that I can’t simply like or dislike the band made me unleash a loud, unpleasant snort. Oh, I just don’t get it, because I’m apparently not cultured enough? Not – god forbid – hipster enough?
A large number of music reviewers try to hide the fact that they can’t articulate what an artist sounds like or their reasons for enjoying a certain sound by name-dropping a slew of certified alterna-culture stars (agreed upon by the pop culture bourgeois for decades, decades) or by employing the ultimate adolescent put-down: “You don’t just get it.”
It can always be better phrased. When someone says they don’t “get” 80s American hardcore, it could mean they fail to relate to the anger at feeling helpless in an increasingly alienating society. Or it could mean the music too simple or derivative of better metal bands.
But what’s the point in trying to guess why people don’t like a certain sound when you should just describe it?
I find Animal Collective dull to the point of annoying. My eyes automatically start rolling if “My Girls” comes on at five minutes of twinkly synth bullshit and possibly the simplest vocal melody this side of “Hot Cross Buns.”
I get Animal Collective’s attempt to build sonic wonderlands anchored by pop sensibilities and Beach Boys-esque harmonies, but I don’t think they do a very good job at it – or at least making it interesting.
Read: I don’t like the band. See? You CAN simply not like it!
Criticizing critics can also be a pretty lame practice, but sometimes they’re just asking for it. And sometimes a single review can epitomize a chief reason why it’s so difficult to find quality music in the oversaturated pop ocean – the “tastemakers” write and reason like schoolchildren. (A nice segue into a question about Hipster Runoff – is that shit for real or what? Has writing about indie rock devolved to Perez Hilton levels or is it some genius social commentary on the vapidness and arrogance of the self-anointed hipster class?)
At the same time, my favorite comment on the AV Club article described Animal Collective as “the embodiment of ‘pretty okay.’ Hipster Coldplay.” Yes, I giggled.