Warren Spicer got his heart broke. Shattered, debilitated, split right down the middle, crushed to the point where you can’t stop talking about it, wallowing in pain because there’s seemingly nothing else to do but wallow in pain. He’s a grown-up, and grown-up problems seem to be whispering from the walls. The other records in the Plants and Animals suite certainly spouted heaviness, but never existential angst. The End of That announces its fervor from a distance. These songs were written right on the other side, crystallizing those delicate precious moments as you’re putting your brain-scaffolding back together. It is plainspoken, brisk poetry and thickly strummed guitars – all things considered, it sounds like an album emerging from bare emotional necessity. One where the art and liberation’s kickback takes control over everything else.
For Plants and Animals, a band that has kept things light and joyous for a career, this is something of a departure. Spicer ain’t singing through goofy cloistered vocoders and sporting titles like “Tom Cruz” or “Future From the ‘80s” anymore. Instead he’s using double-jointed white-guy funk to tell a story about watching everyone else grow up. He actually fits “existential crisis” into a single stanza. Most things on The End of That is shrouded in coiled anger, doubt, and a cynic’s sense of humor – this could be their mature album or their honest album depending on which lens you’re looking through. There’s certainly no doubt it bears a significant, specific, and unavoidable message.
Sometimes this works in Spicer’s best advantages. The title track in particular is maliciously poetic. “I tried your cocaine /just to know what it could do /I had to try it again /just to give it a second chance” sheltered under careful, brushwood guitars. He’s not avoiding the obvious implications--resentment practically pumps through its veins-- but he’s still clear-minded enough to articulate the precise anguish that drove him to write in the first place; a rare feat considering how muddled emotions can so easily dissolve in lesser songs. It captures the tape with extraordinary immediacy, sliding straight off the heart and through his guitar, a dart of lucid truth. It makes perfect sense that it earned the album’s namesake.
The rest of the record essentially tries to recapture the same fresh, perturbing newness, but never with the same grace. “2010,” ostensibly a song written in 2011, bellows that familiar sentiment of embracing a new year as a watershed beacon of new hope, all told in a raucous, amp-thumping jam. The infantilized “Control Me” returns to the bleeding edge, begging for a sure thing in an unsure world. It all vies for the same potency, but nothing quite gets there. The End of That feels like something built with the intentions of making a grand statement, but it comes up a few great songs short.
Honestly it’s pretty remarkable for what it attempts. Plants and Animals have found themselves on the wrong side of the internet lately. Sure 2009’s Parc Avenue earned some regard, but notoriety has eluded them ever since. Trotted out to an unflattering dirth of attention, The End of That makes a strong case for their existence, the risks it takes bold for any level of esteem. If anything, it makes sure we’ll be paying attention to the next one.