Animal Collective Tune In, Drop Out, Grow Up

On the radical serenity/serene radicalism of Merriweather Post Pavilion

It'd be pat to say MPP is their album about growing up, but it is one about endings and beginnings. They sing about starting families; they sing about people they once knew; they fret over whether their capacity for youthful abandon is waning, and whether that's just part of life. Panda Bear's lyrics—deliberately plainspoken—are a contrivance, but a comforting one. "I don't mean to seem like I care about material things" or "I know it sucks that Daddy's gone" aren't complicated phrases, but then again, neither are the sentiments. Tare, who used to skulk in the background like a nightmare waiting to happen, now has a searching, introspective presence. If there's any lyric that sums up the album, it's his: "Sometimes I don't agree with my thoughts on being free." That's not psychedelic—it's lightly neurotic.

If youth is wasted on the young, it makes sense that most of Animal Collective's fans are between 18 and 35—when youth is bruised by responsibility, when innocence requires will (and some ignorance), and when reality becomes, well, a reality. My favorite lines about the band—specifically, Panda Bear's solo track, "Bros"—were written as a parody of Pitchfork on the unfortunately titled blog Hipster Runoff: "I lost my virginity while listening to Panda Bear's Person Pitch in the back of a vintage Volvo after having dropped acid for the first time. I started crying because it was s000 beautiful. The next day I listened 2 it again, and it was s0 chill." A couple of years down the road, it's just music, and sex is just something you do after work. What used to feel radical is now serene and assimilated. One day, you're just on the public bus, listening to Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Animal Collective play the Grand Ballroom January 20 and Bowery Ballroom January 21

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