The Animal Collective Debate: What You Need to Know

By
Unshaven in November. Photo: Courtesy of Domino Records

Ever since it leaked on Christmas Day (but especially since Pitchfork gave it a 9.6 on January 5), Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion has quickly become the most fiercely internet-debated album of our post–Carter III era, with online opinion-havers expounding on everything from the band's possible social conservatism to their secret debt to Hall and Oates. On January 13, Hipster Runoff ran a post saying that much of A.C.'s appeal comes from the fact that they are a band "created by/for/on the Internet," which caused Spin magazine's Charles Aaron to wonder if Animal Collective might become the new Moby. Then, erstwhile Village Voice cover-story writer Nick Sylvester blasted both of them in a 4,800-word post. Your shorthand guide to the entire fiasco, after the jump.

What does Pitchfork think?
Unsurprisingly, Pitchfork's Mark Richardson likes Merriweather Post Pavilion, just as he did Animal Collective's previous five releases. In his now-legendary 9.6 review on January 5, he declares, "No one who's been looking forward to it should be disappointed. Everything that's defined the band to this point — all those strands winding through their hugely diverse catalog — is refined and amplified here." [Pitchfork]

What does Hipster Runoff think?
Hard to say, since masked HRO blogger Carle's entire shtick may be an elaborate meta-satire (his interview in the Village Voice yesterday reveals practically nothing). But in his now-infamous post, he theorizes, seriously or not, that Animal Collective's appeal derives from the fact that pretty much the band's entire career has happened on the internet — they were first championed by blogs and Pitchfork, whose relevance has grown along with theirs.

Also, unlike some other blog-discovered bands (Interpol) who used their online success as a springboard to magazine covers and radio play, Animal Collective's "brand" has never been "tainted" by mainstream appeal, so their evangelical web-browsing fans can enjoy them while simultaneously feeling responsible for the band's perceived importance: "It is a symbiotic relationship. We need them to be 'considered good/relevant' so that we can be 'considered good/relevant.' Now that they have 'made it,' webzines/blogs/pitchforks can pat themselves on the back because this is our child." [Hipster Runoff]

Why does Spin's Charles Aaron worry that Animal Collective might become the new Moby?
Mostly because of the Hipster Runoff post: "Carles simultaneously makes you feel like a delusional douchebag for caring about anything vaguely 'alternative' (a.k.a., an 'alt-bag') while also inspiring you to enthusiastically question everything you believe (which is what 'alternative' culture should be doing, if it's got any meaning or value whatsoever)." Aaron says that just like the first time he heard Moby's Play, his initial exhilaration listening to Merriweather "stemmed partly from a feeling that this artist I'd liked/respected/rooted for, but who had remained pop-culturally marginal, had finally made a record so immediately pleasurable and accessible that it might appeal to people who generally hate this kind of shit." And now, "an oversaturation similar to what Moby willfully engendered via multi-platform licensing over more than a year could be happening, somewhat organically, to Animal Collective … via blogs, websites, YouTube, and assorted online jabberwocky." [Spin]


And what does Nick Sylvester think?
Sylvester likes Merriweather and says Mark Richardson may be Pitchfork's best writer, but he uses most of his epic-length blog post to attack Hipster Runoff's M.O.:

HRO needs rugs, and people to stand on them, so that it can pull it out from them and show how stupid they were for thinking they were safe, for 'pretending' they knew who they were. Just like Gawker, HRO won't stop until we're all too afraid to do anything, to step on the rug and take a fucking chance, to give a shit. Until we're all crippled by self-consciousness, and the worry of making a mistake. The targets will get younger and softer until we're laughing at thirteen year olds and ten year olds and five year olds, how stupid they are, how they embarrass themselves, how they believe they can do things it's so obvious to the rest of us they just can't do — so fucking obvious because we know so fucking much.


Sylvester also concedes that HRO could very well be satire, but the fact that Carle's Animal Collective post is being taken so seriously makes him unsure. It's also been suggested — both by others and Sylvester himself at the top of his post — that he could secretly be Carles. [Riff Market]

I like the new Animal Collective album, but all this debate has made me insecure in my opinion. What should I do?
Don't worry — Kanye likes it, too.