Animal Collective’s follow-up to the magnificent Merriweather Post Pavilion was probably the most anticipated release in indie music this year. That kind of pressure always breeds detractors. With Centipede Hz, Animal Collective have released a fearless collection of songs that fly in the face of their last and most successful LP. The new album is light years away from the accessibility that saw MPP reach #13 on the Billboard chart. The band has forgone their samplers for a less polished, live sound. With Deakon and his guitar finally rejoining full-time and Panda Bear behind the drum kit throughout many tracks, Animal Collective revisit their more experimental roots. Hard core fans will be pleased, but fair weather fans of “My Girls” will jump ship immediately. In the end, we get one of our favorite bands back from the grips of hype and commercialism.
The highlights are abundant, with standout “Monkey Riches” representing one of the best tracks the band has released to date. It represents all that is right in the world of AnCo. From the opening, repetitive melody to Panda Bear’s primal percussion to Avey Tare’s shrieking of the chorus. The song is messy, convoluted, nonsensical, abrasive … and perfect. “Amanita” is the second true highlight on the record and serves as a stunning closer. It almost sounds like a distorted 80’s TV sitcom theme remixed by the band. Melodic, disorienting, and anthemic, the track ends with a goosebump-inducing chant. While the song’s ending may be the most accessible part of the album, it quickly fades into abrasive static. And we’d expect nothing less.
Panda Bear’s songwriting contributions are limited here. “Rosie Oh” is not one of the strongest tracks on the record but maintains Panda’s reign as AC’s king of melody. “New Town Burnout,” a track he originally wrote for his Tomboy solo LP, is already a fan favorite. The track is excellent but would seem to align better with the mood of Tomboy. Centipede also features the first solo vocals from Deakin on “Wide Eyed.” While his lyrics may actually be the strongest on the entire LP, the song isn’t nearly as formidable as those that surround it.
The first single “Today’s Supernatural” serves as an ideal re-introduction to this incarnation of the band and features some of Avery Tare’s most cryptic, yet personal (albeit his Down There LP), lyrics to date. An equally mind-bending video was released a few weeks ago, directed by frequent visual collaborator Danny Perez (see below). “Applesauce” is as beautifully chaotic as Centipede Hz gets. Panda Bear’s drums are the backbone of this standout. The track’s final moments, featuring crashing cymbals behind Avey Tare’s preoccupation with fresh fruit, warrant repeat listens. The band’s new direction did not sit well with some and has not garnered the universal acclaim of its predecessor. Maybe Merriweather Post Pavilion was the misstep.