The line between eclectic and erratic may be even finer than the one between stupid and clever. Animals in Human Attire sit in precarious position, right on that line, almost by design.
Jack Tell started out recruiting friends from other bands to work on a solo record for himself. Instead, he ended up fronting an eight-man group that’s all over the place, so much so that you have to wonder how many more ideas and sounds and styles got the ax just to whittle this self-titled debut down to its present, ever-surprising ungainliness.
It might not be a great “album” in the cohesive sense -- it’s almost more like a great mixtape that samples from Animals in Human Attire albums that never were, or might yet be: one from their jammy, ramshackle Broken Social Scene period, opener “Letters”; a couple from their Modest Mouse period, the stomp-jig “Porcelain” and the boardwalk carnival of “Hook”; “Scripts,” from their Pixies period, which gets so close to ripping off “Where is My Mind?” that even Vanilla Ice would be embarrassed by the acoustic strum, menacing reverb, and “Ooo-oooooo’s.”
I don’t references the references as a criticism (well, except for the Pixies part -- come on, guys). I like the Animals in no small part because of their try-anything spirit, and they wear all these hats well. But on the second half of the record the band does a much better job of synthesizing all these influences and instruments and ideas into music that sounds more distinctly theirs. I’m thinking of the way Hall’s indie yelp and the shrill background vocals tilt the piano ballad “Antarctica” ever-so-slightly on edge, or sonic freakouts cracking through the composed, folksy laments in “Waves” like a madman’s migraine visions. Whatever album those tracks represent on this mix is definitely worth hearing in its entirety.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com