I was sent this album as part of the Amazon Vine programme and the reason why I decided to take a punt on a band I had never heard of was because their blurb loosely compared them to Mercury Rev, The Cure, The Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins and Grandaddy (with an eclectic selection like that it would have to be a loose comparison). Almost more enticing was the mention of their support slots with Band of Horses, Vampire Weekend and Camera Obscura. My first listen through and I was a bit dismissive, the second and I was beginning to hear bits that reminded me of bands I like, and further listens revealed a band who if they're given a chance could develop into something interesting.
The first couple of tracks aren't terribly exciting but previous single Tin Man has something of Radiohead about it, the guitar work and melody in particular. (The lyrics are a bit cutesy though -"Tell me if it's love/'Cause baby I'm a tin man/Since you took my heart/I've got a missing part"). Richard Sauberlich's vocals have a high, clear tone to them recalling Cast's John Power on Silence Summons You but his voice lacks depth and variety on this album, perhaps there's more there when performing live. It all sounds a bit Coldplay on Into The Sea and the next couple of tracks pass by without causing any offence but the second half of the album is far more interesting musically and vocally. Walls Of Jericho has some real bite, Mephistopheles creates an eerie atmosphere as Sauberlich sings with a yearning that extends the lines so that he's almost breathless at the end of each phrase. The Radiohead similarities continue on Yes Sir, Yes Sir (in fact they come dangerously close to plaigarism!) but there's skill in the playing, so one wonders what they might conjure up once they have the confidence to stop imitating and really start creating. Dollar Signs gives Sauberlich the chance to really let his voice soar, wich it hs been itching to do throughout the album. The album closes with Chalk Stars, a suitably grandiose finish which starts quietly but builds into the kind of piano-led, repeating chord instrumental that Sigur Ros have made their trademark.
This abum was recorded in six weeks apparently as the band lived together. It has strengths and weaknesses, and there are a few too many tracks that sound 'like' somebody else, but there's enough there to make them a real prospect for the future. A string of bands have been releasing second albums that give the lie to 'difficult second abum' syndrome (The Horrors, The Maccabees etc) and I hope that on the back of live performances and a confidence boost from this debut Animal Kingdom do the same and make a second album that tells us more about who they are.