Album Review: Animal Collective’s “Centipede Hz”

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On the surface, the members of the experimental rock band Animal Collective appear to be normal guys.

After all, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin are just the colorful monikers of David Portner, Noah Lennox, Brian Weitz and Josh Dibb–ordinary fellows who happen to be extraordinary musicians.

Originally from Baltimore, Md., the band built a cult following over the past decade with its experiments in psychedelia, garage rock and blissed-out chillwave, achieving a starkly unique sound that set it apart from the indie-rock pack .

The group's 2009 effort, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is largely considered their commercial breakthrough–whatever that means for a band like Animal Collective–with the album reaching a much wider audience than their previous releases.

It's doubtful that Centipede Hz will find the same intense, overarching acceptance that its predecessor had. It may very well be Animal Collective’s Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Much like that 1967 Rolling Stones album (possibly the oddest release in the Stones' discography), Centipede Hz is hard to tack down, and, unlike Merriweather, there isn’t quite a clear-cut central theme to tie all of the songs together.

While Merriweather deals with recurring themes of serious monogamous relationships and family, Centipede Hz just isn’t that simple.

The album itself is an incredibly odd combination of many things, like an anxious garage band tackling Jefferson Airplane covers with the assistance of an incredibly skilled audio engineer.

The album opens with "Moonjock," a bizarre hard-rock pop song that's as catchy as anything the band has ever offered to their fans, despite the persistent humming of incomprehensible lyrics set to almost-melodies. Those almost-melodies are abundant throughout the album, and they are the nuggets that make the work so stunning.

"Rosie Oh" is another gem. The song is washed-out in an atmospheric wave of distorted sound effects, moving from the far-off jaggedy barking of a dog to what sounds like a gentle car alarm.

Throughout the album, but especially on "Rosie Oh" and "Pulleys," the band blends samples with a raw, moving rhythm that is absolutely captivating.

Dating back to the very beginning of their career, Animal Collective has shared a certain expertise with another notable East Coast act: The ability write about ordinary things, such as buildings and food. "Applesauce" uses everyday imagery to deliver a larger emotional impact, much in the same way that the gorgeous "What Would I Want (Sky)?" from 2009's Fall Be Kind EP did.

Centipede Hz is not Merriweather Post Pavilion, and that may be disappointing to some recent fans–people who might have been sucked in by the image of hip kids with kooky songs about love and loss.

Sometimes looks can be deceiving. In the case of an inscrutable, dense album like Centipede Hz, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.