In another lifetime ago when I was someone very different and knew only a handful of people in Aarhus, my ex took me and her friend Kristina to the old Pakhuset to see these guys at their first album’s release concert. We were so broke that we snuck beers in and drank them in the bathroom and hid the cans behind the toilets. My ex was a bit tepid about the whole bathroom drinking experience, and kind of turned a blind eye to the idea that while she was watching the show, the band was playing what she guessed was okay music, while myself and Kristina were making friends, getting hammered, and generally acting like pricks around the gaff. Of course we surfaced for air periodically and managed to see most of the concert as well.
It’s possible that my ex was one of those people who actually really hates music, but she wanted to buy the cd. Neither of us had any cash for the band after the show to buy the cd, so I promised her I would get her a copy of the album at a later date when I was more flush. I actually made good on my promise and went to Badstue I think a few weeks later and bought it.
Later in the year she moved out. It was over and I was left with my meager possessions, a couch we bought from her friend with cat scratch marks on it, and this CD that she thought was mine, and left it among my stack of discs. One day after I’d discovered that she moved the Stofa account with her as well, I had no choice but to listen to the Men Among Animals’ first album. I threw her odd socks, bobby pins, cosmetic bags, or any of the other crap she left for me to dispose of in the bin outside. I have a respect for musicians making music, so I gently placed the CD on top of the bin with a sticky note that said: “free- trash”. Just like that, any trace of that woman was gone from my physical life.
Six years have passed and M.A.A. have now released their third album “Buried Handsome”. I wanted to sort of bury my own past and also give the now experienced group, a heartfelt second try at being in my life. Unfortunately though, we will remain as casual as those crumpled cans of Slots that someone had to clean up in Pakhuset. Kristina and I are still close friends.
The album opens with “the place you counted on” and the 1stthing that immediately hit me was the question: “do we really need another band that has a singer that sounds like Ian Curtis”. The music has really nothing to do with the ill-fated Mancunian. Next up is “Kathy”, a song in the vein of jangly indie pop about an ‘us against the world’ type of the relationship. Following is “Failures fans regret and remorse…” which is absolutely a dead ringer for a flaming lips song from say “Yoshimi”, complete with heartbeat drum beats, panned dry electric guitars and of course vocals that directly ape Lips’ singer, Wayne Coyne. It’s a song about possibly politics and revolution, y’know, man vs. the machine. I’m beginning to wonder if this band has an original thought at all, then we launch into “They build a colony”, which is a complete change of direction into folky…I dunno… Mumfords territory complete with mockney accent sung over simple acoustic guitar with a little keys in there.
Probably my favorite on the album though is “common in a special way”, which is kind of a big indie electro song that has notes of the cure, Depeche Mode, and everyone else currently who plays big indie songs with high hats and snares. It’s a song possibly about isolation in loneliness. I’m beginning to grow very weary of this album, but dutifully battle on through the bottom half.
After the initial burst of dynamic energy though, I believe the album really gets mired in trying to set a mood. There’s not really much else to say about the remaining tracks besides on the positive side, they are recorded and written very well with close attention to detail in every nuance of their existence. On the negative side, it seems derivative, completely frivolous and confusing.
In the death throes of the record is “Breathe when you’re dead”, a last furlong of a plea for judgement. Instead of inspiring a replay of the album though, I just feel the need to go to their sources and re hear “The Soft Bulletin”, “Deserter’s Songs”, or just go for a walk and hear the birds chirp.
I still think this band has it in them to produce something wonderful and inspired beyond their influences. Men Among Animals are obviously very good at what they do, but my problem with it is: it just doesn’t do it for me, and apparently never has. I promise with all my heart though to keep listening, I have that much doubt in my own self not to.