Album Review: Animal Collective – Campfire Songs (Reissue)

by Katherine


(Posted at TheFourOhFive.com)

So it’s finally happened – the hipster Holy Grail has been passed, from the shaking, rheumatic hands of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, to freewheelin’ Baltimore psychedelics Animal Collective. There’s no denying that AC are as about on top of their game as any cult band has ever been in the history of indie rock – since 2000 each of their nine albums (that’s right, nine – AC may be mavericks, but they ain’t no slackers) have been consecutively more and more exulted by an increasingly hysterical music press, until their popularity seemed to reach it’s ecstatic nadir with 2009’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ – which was preceded by an all-encompassing, slightly histrionic tsunami of hype – and when the record itself actually came out, the press’s reaction was little short of orgasmic –so much so that they briefly switched their default, internal style guide from ‘sarky’ to ‘overwhelmingly hyperbolic’ – a rare occasion indeed. A tapesty of magic’ raved The Guardian, ‘One of the landmark American albums of the century so far’ praised Uncut.

In the history of indie rock, never before have one group of average bros ever found themselves so insanely eulogized – and, all things considered, AC seem like a pretty normal group of guys (albeit one with a penchant for animal masks and face paint) – yet the press have presented them as a kind of superman Stephen Malkmus, playing psychedelica on a mixture of E and kryptonite. And who can blame AC for doing what any group of sensible family men who have to make a living out of the public’s fickle fancy would do – monopolising on their infinite success by re-releasing some of their past albums.

Having said that, something seems so horribly contrived about an insanely credible indie band making a grab for cash – it seems as if Avey Tare & Co are testing their newfound, invincible veneration. Call me a traditionalist, but it seems against the base ‘hey man, we’re no sell-outs’ ethic on which indie rock was formed. You can almost see them; sitting in their castle made of money and pulped rave reviews, surrounded by writhing, neon-clad American apparel models and crowing ‘Hah! We can reissue an album that is little more than Avey Tare and a guitar being churned in a giant, droney washing-machine and STILL manage to induce erections in every music blogger in Williamsburg! Your move, Yeasayer!’

This isn’t an insult to the album itself – ‘Campfire Songs’ is a gently medicinal slice of naturalism which will be sure to soothe many hangover-afflicted headaches in the months to come. ‘Doggy’ is as suitably chilling as an incredibly infantile song about a dead dog should be, and ‘De Soto De Son’s gentle, pentatonic guitar line is undeniably gorgeous – but after the meteoritic sucker-punch that was ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, ‘Campfire Songs’ can’t help but seem a little anti-climatic.

Although it could be that AC are just helping the music press to calm the hell down after the over-zealous hype-storm MPP brought– obviously they’re going to need something soothing to play while they feverishly fan themselves and press cold flannels to their brows – but anyone who was introduced to Animal Collective’s allures through the entrancing, gently-ebbing melodies of ‘My Girls’ is going to feel severely alienated by this particular reissue.

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