Animal Collective - “On a Plain”
On an utterly different note, this. It’s from back when Animal Collective actually sounded like a collective of animals. Note the barking and keening. Although I like them currently, this is the period (basically around Sung Tongs) that I’m most emotionally attached to. Partially, it’s when I first became interested in them, but I also feel like their music was pushing harder back then in weirder directions. I’m a big fan of exuberant weirdness, and this cover is exactly that.
AC helped launch indie’s rapidly curdling obsession with childhood nostalgia, but at least they understand (or understood) childhood as delightfully self-centred and a bit vicious. On “Plain,” they harnessed the warmth of the acoustic guitar and all of its cozy campfire associations, but made it droney and bossy. This is guitar you play on the Lord of the Flies island before you go pig-killing. And “the finest day I’ve ever had/was when I learned to cry on command,” sounds more appropriate coming from childish voices than a conflicted adult. (The animal references pop out, too. Who knew there were so many?)
For most of their discography, Panda Bear and Avey Tare have been trying to craft a form of masculinity that fits their hippie ideals (Panda Bear mostly). On their recent stuff, Panda Bear has reached some answers: masculinity is a way of giving support (“Brothersport”, “My Girls”). But during “Plain”, he was still as antagonistic and energized as Avey. Cobain sounded ironic and mopey about the song’s hopelessness. Avey and Panda burst with - not excitement, but an upbeat manic confusion: “I love myself better than you! I know it’s wrong, but what should I do?” Their cover is suffused with the anxious, sloppy delight of children pushing against boundaries. Pushing boundaries is how we all find new ways to enjoy. But it’s also how we unexpectedly find ourselves, one day, on the other side of adulthood.