Friday, 27 March 2009

Animal Collective @ Kentish Town Forum 24/3/09

Animal Collective have experienced an unexpected rise to widespread acclaim in recent months. Ninth studio album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’, released in January, cemented their position at the forefront of a noise-pop avant-garde. True experimentalists in sound, the Baltimore natives have somehow carved a pathway from the periphery of musical innovation to the hype-driven core of ‘cool’.

So long spent underground means that, habitually, Animal Collective play gigs to a hardcore fanbase who know their ‘Sung Tongs’ from their ‘Campfire Songs’, and who, no messing, come to live shows expecting the atmospheric, ear-deafening wig-out that inevitably ensues.

But not tonight. Since the hype surrounding their January release, every alterna-twit in skinny jeans clutching a dog-eared copy of NME has been name-checking Animal Collective as though they’re the passport to a higher plane of societal existence, and the demographic in the Forum tonight makes this all too painfully obvious. Obnoxious indie-brats chat incessantly, take photos on camera phones, josh onlookers on their way to the bar for more orangeade, and generally gawp in bored, ignorant wonderment at a band who, beyond barely recognising the audience’s presence, are almost invisible onstage for the smoke-screened visuals that accompany their set.

The atmosphere suffers as a result, massively detracting from the protracted sonic evolution that Animal Collective apply to each track. There are moments of distended anticipation where Geologist’s bobbing headlamp signals a rhythm-driven detour – when a familiar hook breaks the surface a palpable ecstasy ripples through the crowd, as with the bubbling ‘Brothersport’. The ticker-ticker intro to ‘Fireworks’ seems unending, testing even those of us who know what’s coming, and when that familiar falsetto wail emerges it is quickly absorbed in waves of audio-cacophony that should ignite an all-out rave – and surely would, were the venue and turn-out not so inept.

Meriweather’s big hits, ‘My Girls’ and ‘Summertime Clothes’, are doled out at the very opening of nigh-on two hours, making it clear that this is a show, as ever, raw with artistic intelligence and integrity, rather than one to satiate those whose trend-driven curiosity piqued about a month ago. In short, it’s not a gig for the kids – which is why their dilution of an otherwise superlative performance damages the overall effect to such a degree.

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