Animal Collective - Troxy, London, 12/04/16

Animal Collective – Troxy, London, 12/04/16

In an age when nearly every band around seems all too happy to fall into one musical pigeonhole or another, the irresistible rise of Animal Collective is more than heartening.

In the decade or so since they first emerged they’ve ascended from a cool hipster name to drop to part of the alternative music furniture, a band which now others are comfortably compared to.  A band who are capable of packing a seriously sized venue like the Troxy, not with the beards and ironic dress sense you might expect but with a shockingly normal (and noticeably un-male dominated) audience.

First things first, an Animal Collective gig is an awesome visual treat.  A swirling mass of gaudy colours are being projected onto a massive screen that stretches up to this art deco theatre’s high ceiling.  Cardboard cut outs of eyes, scissors and other less discernible shapes hang from the ceiling, and on either side of the stage there are two huge primitive statues, one of a man and the other a woman.  It’s a suitably psychedelic environment for the super trippy sound of Animal Collective to flourish in.

And flourish it does.  Coming towards the end of a world tour to promote new album Painting With, at their best they’re at the height of their powers. In the hands of their new touring drummer Jeremy Hyman Pete their songs are driven by the same kind of tribal rhythmic energy that powers tUnE-yArDs and Battles on occasion. Their sweet vocal harmonies, meanwhile, bring to mind the Beach Boys‘ acid-drenched ‘Smile’ period, possibly regurgitated through the mixing desk echo mania of Lee Perry and topped off with squealing vintage synths.

It’s an admirably unconventional approach to what has, in the main, an inner core of classic songwriting at its core.  The best moment of the night is undoubtedly their unexpected cover of old Motown standard ‘Jimmy Mack‘, a version whose identity slowly dawns on the listener but is delivered with un-ironic passion and sincerity.   If there is a  low spot, it is the completely ambient workout they offer up as their first encore.  Fine to soundtrack a post-club comedown, sure, but with feet aching and yawns brewing it’s not ideal for a triumphant return to the stage.

They could work on the dynamics of their setlist to squeeze the most power out of their already very varied back catalogue.  But even as they are, they’re not far off being one of the truly unmissable live acts of their generation.  

Image credit: Getty

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.