Written by John Dickinson
After settling in after a three-year break since their last full length album, Animal Collective returns in 2012 with the familiar sound of triumphant synthesizers, clever sampling, and inquisitive guitar riffs on Centipede Hz. The most alluring aspect of the album however, is David Portner’s frenetic yelps and Noah Lennox’s haunting delivery, which provide caustic social commentary around every turn, and help to bolster the group’s infamous use of cryptic poetry. Here we take a look at the top ten lyrics chosen from Centipede Hz by StereoIQ.
10. “Sometimes it won’t come so easy / Sometimes you gotta go get mad.” – Animal Collective, “Today’s Supernatural” Lyrics
Portner comments on the challenges of always getting what you want. Motivation comes from within the self, and sometimes the only way to achieve happiness is to tap into your well of primal instinct and go after it. Basically, Animal Collective manages to get one of the most important life lessons across to the listener without sounding like an advice columnist.
9. “I made a shadow with my hand / I made it like your heart but it will never be the same.” – Animal Collective, “Today’s Supernatural” Lyrics
This lyric might call to mind the image of a giddy Avey Tare, flashlight in hand, making shadow puppets like a kid on a camping trip. However, the reality of the lyric isn’t nearly as whimsical. Portner uses this imagery to paint a picture of inadequacy; in essence he states that the feelings and emotions of his supposed love interest are so complex and delicate, that in trying to understand them, he ends up divulging only a modicum of what’s really there — the shadow.
8. “As I left my home I cried / And a substituted figure tried to reconcile the things I’d left behind.” – Animal Collective, “Rosie Oh” Lyrics
This line comments on the pain of having to pretend to live a life that is no longer yours. The “substituted figure” is in fact not a second party; it is the narrator wearing the skin of the man he used to be after returning from a long (substance induced?) journey. Trying to return to a normalcy after a life-changing experience is no easy task — though who even knows what AC’s definition of normalcy is?
7. “When I was young I thought fruit was an infinite thing / I’d be sad to wake up and find all of my cherries are charred or they’re rotted to ruin.” – Animal Collective, “Applesauce” Lyrics
These lines represent one of the most pervasive themes on the album, which is the process of aging. Portner points out that the innocence and naivety of childhood propelled his inflated notion of lasting value. Only once he saw nature spoil did he learn that even the most beautiful aspects of life are fleeting and transient.
6. “Even as water’s crushing over my head / And the rhythm that I would slow is picking up it’s pace / I’m learning from older shames as I’m watching them die.” – Animal Collective, “Wide Eyed” Lyrics
This song highlights the versatility of multi-instrumentalist Josh Dibb, who rejoined Animal Collective for this release. Dibb’s heavily reverbed croons urge the need for growth and maturation in the toughest of times. He places special importance on learning from “older shames” and using past mistakes as motivation for dusting yourself off and trying again, a la Aaliyah.
5. “We exorcised the weekend / now all the demons can’t play / but they snuck into Thursday / Looking out for panthers from the road again.” – Animal Collective, “Father Time” Lyrics
This line highlights Animal Collective’s potential to spin the straw of language into vivid imagery with great ease. In fact, all of the lyrics in “Father Time” read like a dreamlike Kafkaesque journey through the spectrum of time. To make matters weirder, Portner tops the song off with an allusion to a good ol’ fashioned exorcism. Through this, he stresses how youthful nature and curiosity are, like hellbound demons, always inside us, and don’t have to waver with age.
4. “Imagination won’t get moldy, can’t wait for time to unfold me /Then I imagine Time, he’s got real big hands and bigger plans.” – Animal Collective, “Father Time” Lyrics
We already know that one of Animal Collective’s thematic elements on their new record is aging. While following the theme of aging, this line provides a more optimistic view than is seen in other songs from Centipede Hz. The focus here is not on deterioration, but on the blooming growth that accompanies time. With age comes wisdom, and David Portner notes that his ability to innovate will only strengthen as he ages, viewing the personified Father Time as a gentle giant with a master plan.
3. “Luck it’s not real though my feelings say it’s real / Maybe it’s only real when someone blinds you when they had always been so kind to you.” – Animal Collective, “Father Time” Lyrics
“Father Time” includes an allusion to the Shakespeare play King Lear, in which the character Gloucester is blinded and subsequently transitions from having aura of arrogance to gaining humility and understanding – in this sense, he is lucky. Handling the situations that life deals you can be an arduous task. Luck and misfortune go hand in hand, and in this lyric Portner ponders on whether or not luck actually does exist. Is the notion of “luck” a virtue handed down from the heavens, or just the result of our actions? Avey Tare seems to feel that it is the latter.
2. “And I want to look out, I don’t want to bail out / And I want to help out, I don’t want to nod out.” – Animal Collective, “Monkey Riches” Lyrics
The narrator here suggests that in the past he has been a flaky and inconsiderate individual, caring only for himself. With the passage of time, he learns that the benefits of helping others can exceed the benefits of being selfish. This solidifies the theme of “change over time”, and while it’s easy to talk about being a magnanimous individual, it takes balls to put it into action — and Animal Collective has eight of them.
1. “Every time I look up at that blurry sun / All I think about is our bodies moving on / Everybody ought to get that special glance” – Animal Collective, “Monkey Riches” Lyrics
AC gets existential. Centipede Hz marks the group’s ninth release, so it’s no wonder that their lyrics — like this one found on “Monkey Riches” — are much more profound than the nonsensical, albeit poetic psychedelia that can be found on earlier releases like 2004’s “Sung Tongs”. In “Monkey Riches”, Portner denounces material wealth and elaborates on his search for nirvana. He also stresses his appreciation for his fellow man, stating that the idea of heaven should be all-inclusive. Animal Collective’s altruistic attitude and their refusal to accept the standards by which contemporary society lives are the keystones of the album, and what make this lyric number one.