Let's be perfectly clear: Animal Collective is a gimmick band. It's not that their particular sonic gimmick is bad — or that they're not fine-tuning and enhancing it with each record — but listening to Merriweather Post Pavilion is to be reminded that these East Coast soundscapers aren't going to be making a huge bid for mainstream accessibility any time soon. After all, that's one reason why their supporters adore them so. At a time when the Web discovers, processes and then discards hyped bands in the time it's taken you to read this sentence, Animal Collective is genuinely mysterious — and have remained that way for a decade. That's not the same thing as being musical geniuses, granted, but at least it's a calling card.
Merriweather Post Pavilion plays like a natural continuation of member Panda Bear's 2007 solo album, Person Pitch, which trimmed the band's folkie tendencies and dove headfirst into pure Beach Boys tunefulness. While Merriweather has lyrics, they're mostly just snippets of phrases to accompany the snippets of sounds the band members assemble to make their aural collages. Animal Collective's albums are pure sensation, radiating emotion and unfathomable feeling without ever seeming to be connected to anything concrete. It's another reason why this group has such passionate disciples — Animal Collective (who'll be hitting the Royal Oak Music Theatre in May) creates religious epiphanies for people who never see the inside of a church. This album can be utterly gorgeous, oddly demented and wholly captivating. They will never make an album that'll convince their haters they're not pretentious hippies, of course, but as gimmick bands go, they're still one of the best.
Tickets are now on sale for Animal Collective’s Monday, May 18 show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980. Tickets available through the venue box office or by calling 800-919-6272.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].