CATS BE TELLING ON KIDS
There are sandwiches inside
Animal Collective + Amandine + Excepter
Watch Video: “Grass”
Few months ago Julianne and I caught some dude grilling his date on her hobbies (he actually said, “What are your hobbies?”). Right before the meal came he stiffened up, got really serious. “Listen, I need to ask you something. Do you like the Animal Collective?” She nods. “Okay good.”
Now wait just a fucking second. Who calls Animal Collective “the Animal Collective”? And who nods?
Besides the point. Just stuck with me because (the) AC have, since Sung Tongs, maybe even Campfire Songs, become something along the lines of indie’s choice connubists: Lay awake in bed Sun morning with someone you love, while Avey Tare and Panda Bird and the other guys (Zeke? Snakes? I forget) open-strum their freaked-out folk (but not freakfolk), squeal out their nostrils till you’re grateful and dead-sure they’re onto something serious.
Granted AC’s recent rockers — “Leaf House,” “Grass,” “Purple Bottle,” “Rabbit,” “We Tigers” — have their future-primitive, return-to-innocence charm. They’re stupid songs that make people do stupid things — something gorgeous about that. But I’d be lying if AC side-project Jane‘s ambient-dub cantations on Berserker didn’t find good late night rotation, and I’d be lying even more if I didn’t admit I got “Riff Raff, turn this freaky monk shit off” before the lights came low.
On the floor Webster looked like a goddamn soph hop. Here all the 16-year-olds stood with their hands deep down each other’s asscracks, the rest of them sitting indian-style between sets and playing pattycake (swear to Christ). They liked opener Amandine‘s one-tempo alt-country dullabies, they thought fractal noise troupe Excepter‘s Thanksgiving murder mystery routine “went somewhere, finally,” and they strategized how they would make their way to the front of the room: “We’ll crawl there! That way, nobody will be upset.”
The kid who said the crawling thing, he looked like this guy Chuckie Schmidt. Chuckie, for those of you who didn’t graduate ’96 from St. Catherine’s in Horsham, always had it out for me, a psychological bully of sorts who wore his father’s mailman pants to class until the Post Office found out and told his father to keep his slacks in check. We had crucial common ground though — Nirvana worship. More, we both thought “Aneurysm” was Cobain’s best song, the Unplugged Record was only good because David Bowie was good, the suicide was actually a murder, etc. And when I ran the talent show eighth grade I made sure Chuckie got to play “Drain You” between acts, most of which just involved kids doing gymnastics to “Can’t Touch This” or performing magic tricks to “Motown Philly.” Last I saw Chuckie he was riding a skateboard attached by rope to the back of his brother’s car, but still.
Point is, and I’m not sure what to make of this myself, but the crawl kid freaked out for Avey Tare like Tare was Cobain or something. Is that the case? Are Animal Collective some generation’s Nirvana? Was this somebody’s Biggest Concert Of My Life? Does somebody think Tare’s weird-ass facial contortions when he sings have more to them than just weird-assness — will said somebody find the sort of relief I found when hearing the pained Cobain sing, “I have very bad posture,” when he, in fact, had pretty bad posture? Do kids cover Animal Collective songs at talent shows yet?
Different world, no judgement. But damn did the band’s “just a bunch of friends making something special” spirit cocoon this crowd. Here boredom is just a stupid grin, and energy on high, like on the playground sing-n-shout drumcyclic romp “We Tigers,” becomes the most friendly frenzied frolic I’ve ever seen — even that nasty long-haired dude from Mondo Kim’s, AC’s guitar tech for the night, stamped along with a big smile on his face. He even said “thank you” after I bought a t-shirt. What?
AC have written some of my favorite songs, and yet I can’t help after last night feeling like I’m not their target anymore. At least in concert, I miss the bullying. I miss the grittier, uglier Animal Collective of manatee dansing, spirit-vanished yore — I miss the band’s question marks, air of mystery, pretension even. I don’t like feeling so damn comfortable and assured at these shows; comfort doesn’t inspire me. For everyone else I hope it does, but me, I don’t like pattycake; I don’t think your hand down my asscrack is sexy.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 21, 2005