Review: Post Animal’s Post Animal Perform the Most Curious Water Activities

RIYL: Tame Impala, Black Sabbath, Winona Ryder buying 300 packages of christmas lights at a local hardware store

Among Chicago’s many garage and psych rock acts, the fresh faced Post Animal stand to be one of the city’s best. With their 2015 release, Post Animal Perform the Most Curious Water Activities, Post Animal introduce us to a Chicago sound that is a tumble a bit further down the psychedelic rabbit hole than their Chi-town contemporaries such as The Orwells, The Symposium, Twin Peaks, or Smith Westerns. These bands thrive on angular guitar lines or shimmery indie hooks, inspired more by punk and garage than the 60s west coast psych scene. Post Animal travel at a lethargic pace, drifting precariously close to stoner metal, but blur the angular guitar lines, dripping each song in effects, and turning the reverb up to ten. It has all the machismo of a Black Sabbath or Black Angels record, but captured with all the lushness of a White Fence or Tame Impala release.

The outfit is lead by singer Dalton Allison, who’s vocals here are notably reserved and muffled, like Real Estate’s Martin Courtney singing beneath a smothering pillow. Allison is buried amongst the record’s layers, a bit lost in the reeds, but he sounds purposeful playing a supporting role to the guitar, synth, and bass leads. If you’ve explored the band’s social media accounts, then you may recognize a familiar face on drums. Joe Keery, drummer and poster boy for the band, also stars in the Netflix smash Stranger Things, as the 80s prep douche Steve Harrington. (Interestingly, Charlie Heston, who plays Jonathon Byers, is also a musician that played drums in the noise rock band Comanechi) They’ve received a boost in publicity because of Keery’s involvement in the show, but the new attention is warranted. This record is good.

Keery in Stranger Things.

The album erupts into one of its strongest tracks with the opener “Goggles.’ Sounding like an Innerspeaker outtake, Allison sets the pace thematically, likening psychedelia to a pair of scuba goggles. Admittedly, “Now I’ve got my goggles on, let’s see what I can see” is a bit of a let down after all the diving imagery lead up, but as an album introduction it establishes the project succinctly. They wasted no time foreshadowing the “Tomorrow Never Knows”-esque acid mantras, the swirling vocal effects, and the crunchy Jack Bruce bass lines to come. I was so glad. “A Whale’s Tale,” confirms this band’s near mastery of the pedalboard. Each instrument involved spends the near 5 minute track time with a technicolor tracer- a tail of reverb and sonic debris that it never resolves to losing-to my chagrin. The sweet vocal harmony bridge they manage in standout ‘Alabaster” is a reprieve from all the punishing riffing going on here. Most of the record consists of these unforgiving guitar riffs, juxtaposed against pretty choruses or pre-choruses. The synth lead in “Hoverin’ All Night” is an outright Kevin Parker knockoff, but who can blame them? With the snare-heavy drum fills, nastily vocal performance, and scant guitar riffing, there’s no great alternative to mixing the synthesizer in like their idol would. The synth here explodes the track’s space, inflating the chorus into an anthem of psychedelic elation.

One of the most impressive accomplishments of PAPTMCWA is that it was a completely self-produced outing. It’s a technically accomplished reproduction of Kevin Parker’s now trademark sound. They’ve traced the textures and timbres of Tame Impala with precision- as so many others have already, yet concocting something stronger, thematically darker, and somehow richer. The drums come extra crunchy, with sloppy fills, hesitant rolls, gated snares, and total disregard for the click track- all the work of Joe Keery. The guitar riffs land like the battle axes of 80s cartoon heroes. All power. Not a thin sounding guitar, finger pick, or arpeggio among these songs. It’s all head bobbing, motorcycle revving, psych rock nostalgia. Unlike Keery’s new Netflix project, which has been mum about its next season, Post Animal have been very active. Since this release in late 2015, they’ve dropped six singles and are playing regularly in the Chicago area.