The Sludge and Comfort


Tilled by distortion and a sort of modern dissonance, Animal Collective’s “For Reverend Green” glibly bounces off the walls of its own sticky funhouse. In 2007, the kaleidoscopic band from Baltimore had already been Pitchfork darlings, held court at Coachella, and were yelping into the headphones of college students across every American campus. They were jesters, villains, and the immediate answer to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The collection of zoo creatures on the front of Pet Sounds had truly become Animal Collective. With Lord of the Flies etiquette, this band of outlaws employed names such as Panda Bear and Avey Tare. They danced, merrily, in bleary sunsets. Treated convention like clay pigeons. And roared across the continent with dirtied palms and jellied mouths. On the album Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective had finger painted a sort of sonic cacophony of joy and malady. The rhythms were frantic and yet contained, a bedrock of the band, and yet their powers seemed to be expanding. Animal Collective’s song “For Reverend Green” was a satirical cocktail sword that stirred the album’s glue and saccharine.

Walking to the esoteric beat of its own pulpy drums, track four on Strawberry Jam is a circulatory system of sadness, hope, and defeat.  The staccato chirps are its opening salvo, but the song’s maddening chorus bays at the moon in a primordial rage. Nothing is safe here. “For Reverend Green” is a deconstruction of our father’s music – the wall of sound is present, but perforated. There are distinct nods to beach music, Phil Spector, and even Motown in Animal Collective’s faraway mortar fire. But those melodies are filtered through the grief of technology, distrust, and cognitive dissonance. Everything begins in a whisper or coo, but crashes in screams and straight jackets. Many of the lyrics are said with obscure intent, but some are volleyed with intense and clerical despair: “He’ll only be your friend if he touches your breasts”. Animal Collective has always drawn ire for having created a noisy, odd, and structurally unorthodox chamber of sound. But that same muddied tapestry of disappointment, dread, and optimism was a keynote speaker for the strangeness of the aughts; the electricity of detachment was coming on strong, and this was one of the few bands that addressed the fears of modernity and youth with both warpaint and vulnerability.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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