Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, May Wiltern Date Released
There are surely more timely, more astute comments on this record out there in the airspace already, but I have a bit of time to kill, so I’ll jump in with saying it was a bit disappointing to not find Merriweather Post Pavillion in the unofficial “indie” slot on the weekly CD sale page of the happy blue Best Buy Sunday circular.
It officially arrives in stores today for proper retail consumption, after much anticipation–see, for example, this 1,139 page message board thread at the venerable ateaseweb.com–early track leaks policed by Web Sheriff, a pre-CD sold out vinyl issue, all leading up to the Pitchfork decimal system delivering just four-tenths shy of a perfect ten. It is probably not a zero sum game over at Best Buy, but maybe Andrew Bird was this week’s pick for that unofficial “indie” slot in the coveted Sunday ad pages, in all likelihood possessing the bigger potential for wide breakout appeal.
However, A.C. makes a good, albeit challenging fit for the young Guitar Heroes and Garage Banders of ’09, with its bleeping and blooping, whirring and looping, button pushing sample triggering and twisty knob twiddling. There would be something satisfying about having M.P.P. out on the big box retailer sale end cap for a curious kid to grab on a whim for $9.99 off of Grandma’s gift card.
As has been writ elsewhere, it’s a fairly accessible record, with hooks to burn. Who needs to be a Fripp-y muso scientist anymore? Today’s Guitar Heroes change chords and rip licks with a mere four color-coded buttons on the left hand that could just as easily be played with mittens on. Pull down a bittorrent of a “Jam Pack” for Garage Band on your Mac and mouse up some World music loops, et voila, instant tunage, tweak as needed.
Of course there is more to M.P.P. record than this, but maybe this is the foothold for a new young, suburban audience–sell them on the “radical” lack of traditional instrumentation and arrangement, here eschewed for random transient tones and percussion piled on, all coming together to form some very evocative music. No piano lessons required!
For the, uh, more mature listener, though, one of the standout qualities of the recording is the fairly impressive vocal work throughout. Oddly enough, most reviews I’ve skimmed give the human talent on display here short shrift by simply referencing Beach Boys and/or Pet Sounds and moving on. I’d say Smiley Smile and Surf’s Up are actually closer cousins to M.P.P., and, less obviously, Mercury Rev’s See You on the Other Side. Alan McGee over at the Guardian has a hoot of a blog comparing them to–wait for it–Hall & Oates. The rest don’t delve much into the human expertise on display here, the serious harmonizing and inventive rhythmic/melodic counterpoint.
The band themselves don’t make it particularly easy to heap praise upon them, being, largely egoless, performing under stage names and donning masks in publicity photos, or maybe the vocals are just easily overlooked in contrast to their mélange of noise beneath. Or perhaps these days we take vocals for granted in the age of AutoTune and assume everything is buffed to a high gloss in Pro Tools.
Whatever the case, I can easily hear a couple of these tracks selling, say, Mountain Dew, so there are in-roads available here to deliver this to the youthful masses, even if Best Buy won’t play ball. I am available for marketing consultation for a nominal fee.
Merriweather Post Pavillion