I've liked the idea of Animal Collective since I first heard of them many years ago. I've been trying to like the reality since Sung Tongs, the first album of theirs that I heard. I've listened to every record since, including Panda Bear's second solo album, the much-acclaimed Person Pitch. But I don't like them. In fact, I pretty much hate their music.
Some context. I wrote about music for a few websites and some magazines for several years; I gave rave reviews to people like Caribou (when he was still Manitoba), Bark Psychosis, Fennesz, The Necks, Acoustic Ladyland, and Patrick Wolf. I've got a big record collection. I like a lot of 60s psych music, Tropicalia, 70s fusion jazz, My Bloody Valentine, Orbital, Aphex Twin, Talk Talk, Can, Long Fin Killie, Battles, blah blah blah etc. I'm not at all adverse to "experimental" music; I earned money writing about it! I also like pop music, Beatles, Bacharach, great melodies, timeless songs, gorgeous harmonies etc etc.
So why don't I like Animal Collective, seemingly one of the most consistently acclaimed alternative bands of the 2000s, who are meant to be both mind-wideningly experimental and exultantly pop? The thing is that I don't really know. I can't touch their music. I can't recall any of it. It gives me a headache, makes me lose concentration. I can't focus on their records like I can on, say, a Super Furry Animals record, or a Califone record, or a Kitchens Of Distinction record, or whatever.
I was actually REALLY looking forward to MPP because early talk about it from people I know seemed to say they'd made a much more danceable record than they had previously; Screamadelica was mentioned as a comparison point, which would make me feel a little sick if it was Keane we were talking about, but with Animal Collective it actually made me hopeful; maybe finally it would click for me?
Well I've spent many hours over the last three months or so with MPP, and it hasn't clicked. I still don't get it. I get no emotion from this record, no excitement, no visceral or sensual or intellectual thrill. It's like a giant, beautiful butterfly, flapping its wings right in my face; occasionally I get a sense of something wonderful and strange, but it's too close to focus on, too distracting to get involved with, and so I am left annoyed. It's all distracted, shrill treble, messily mixed and indistinct. None of the sounds on this record seem real to me, seem like actual sound, actual music, however abstract; it's not even "noise" - I like "noise"! It's something else.
I don't understand. So many people whose opinion I respect like this band, this record. People express surprise when I say I can't stand them. I like Grizzly Bear and Koushik, so why not this? I keep trying. I will keep trying. Maybe one day it'll click. Nothing annoys me more than not getting joy out of music that other people say they get joy from. But I get nothing from this other than a headache.
EDIT: I've been listening to this a lot lately, in one last attempt to "get it", and I think I finally have - the moment of truth came when I played it on my proper big hi-fi, which has been blocked by an old sofa I've been waiting to get rid of, and I was actually properly swept away for a good while; bits of it are now lodged pretty solidly in my head (passages of My Girl, Summertime Clothes, Also Frightened, Brother Sport, No More Running). This has, improbably, after months of disillusion, grown on me. If I still feel the same in a week, I'll bump this up from 2 to 4 stars. But not 5. Because Lion In A Coma is still horrible.
ANOTHER EDIT: Tail-between-legs time; I've had a complete about-face with this record, and I now adore it. After playing it on the big hi-fi and having it totally open up to me, MPP has become the joyous psychedelic melody explosion that everyone told me it was. My Girls is so sweet, so humble, and so catchy; Summertime Clothes is so hooky, so stereophonically groovy; No More Running is so elegiac and beautiful; Bluish is so distractedly horny. And the rest of the songs are pretty great, too; even Lion In A Coma has grown on me (must be the Jews Harp). This actually is a properly amazing record now it's hit me. I'm just faintly irritated that it took so long!
Consider the 2 stars above to have 3 more after them now. Seriously.