Album Review

Aaron George
Ah math rock, honestly I had given up on it years ago. The idea is fascinating, using math to attempt to unlock a new sound or rhythm. Sadly the only bands that attempt this sort of thing have traditionally been very heavy metal like Meshuga. While I respect them for trying, Meshuga and bands like them tend to be one dimensional if not impossible to groove out to, so while it is impressive it is hard to get anything out of it aside from awe. Some time late last year however I found a link to a youtube video for "26 is Dancier than 4" by a group named This Town Needs guns, and I was stunned. Not only was the video great, but also more importantly the music was unlike anything I had ever heard. I was instantly done in (I still have the link saved to my favorites) and when the group released its first full length CD in the US, Animals, I eagerly paid the ten bucks to download it and since then it has been on near constant play on my MP3 player.

The music here is clean, melodic, and while probably more complex mathematically than I could wrap my head around it beautifully manages to avoid the trap of complexity for the sake of being complex. Instead what you get are beautiful guitar lines, perky drumming, bass that goes way beyond the base and all of this is tied together by vocals that are starkly simple yet incredibly potent. I am almost afraid to say this, but I think this might actually be a new type of music, if it has been done before then I certainly have never heard it and I wouldn't be surprised if the others paled in comparison. Its almost like one of those paintings where the artist flings paint at the canvas, only here there are four artists and each tiny drop of paint falls exactly where they want it to while still being just as raw as if it had be done with their eyes closed.

How this group manages to compose an entire song, let alone fifteen is beyond me. If it didn’t all work together so well you might think that they were each playing something completely different from one another. Especially on songs like "Chincilla" "Gibbon" "Panda" and the first track "Pig", the way the members play off of one another, collectively letting each measure build into the next is great to hear passively or to sit and ponder how it all fits together. It is rare that intellect and emotions are simultaneously stirred by music, but when it happens you can't help but become immersed.

Be warned however, aside from "26 is dancier than 4" and "If I sit still maybe I'll make it out of here" (two tracks which were recorded and released prior to Animals) the majority of the album is low key, mellow, and sometimes outright depressed. Its sort of an odd feeling at times, you find yourself happy listening to songs with lyrics that lament on the difficulties of love, you smile while Stuart Smith's whispy voice tells you how broken his heart is. But this dark cloud has a very bright silver lining. The blues don’t stick around for ever here, and "26 is dancier..." "If I sit still...." and songs like the smooth "Crocodile" and instrumental "Elk" (definitely check this one out if you appreciate a well played trumpet) do much to lighten the mood.

Animals was released some time in the spring of '09', but it was one of the less noticed triumphs of the year. If you like the softer songs of Radiohead, you are pretty much predetermined to like this music as the influence shows and they do it justice. Also if you are fond of bands like Rush or Yes, technical musicians, this band is most likely right up your alley. Sort of a nerd music fans dream but with more than enough merit and soul to appeal to just about anyone. I rarely find myself being able to only say good things about a group, let alone one that seems preoccupied with love, but this band seems to be an exception most rules, and I cannot recommend them enough and I am eagerly awaiting anything they might do in the future.