Animals In Human Attire have been gigging around town fairly regularly for a few years now with somewhat of a revolving cast of players, and for anyone who’s seen them live, it’s probably tough to imagine them nailing down an official lineup, let alone coming together to record an album. Yet here it is: Ourmegadawn, actually the band’s second foray into the studio, following up 2011’s lost-in-the-shuffle self-titled debut. The new record comes close to capturing the unpredictable thrill of an AIHA live show, but it also allows some of their catchier melodies (“Antfarm”, “Sun Machines”) to worm their way quickly into memorability. It happily sacrifices the brute force of the debut for a more searching, thoughtful attitude, winding up with something perhaps less focused but much more original.
Tracks like "Breaking Point" and "South Pole Mountain Song" meander like second-tier Pavement tunes at times, but they also benefit from Modest Mousey jolts of spastic energy (although "Sleep Talking In Uneven Dreams" comes close to Isaac Brock mimicry). An easily-digestible cohesion of ideas is rare, but there's also no trace of the self-indulgence that would attract a prog tag. Jack Tell's frantic/fragile vocals mostly skim the surfaces of melodies rather than define them, bringing to mind the solo work of bassist Myles Coyne, actually. But the band would also be right at home on a bill with local scrap-rockers Sat. Nite Duets, furthering the anything-goes aesthetic of the Riverwest sound.
The acoustic-based romp "Cathexis" comes close to sloppy jam-grass, like a looser but way more imaginative Yonder Mountain String Band, except there's not a bunch of superfluous dull improv...maybe I just make that connection because it's unfortunately the most popular genre for banjo of the last decade or so. Overall, Tell's banjo playing adds a pretty unique flavor to the whole album; it sounds grotesque at first and it's hard to make the claim that all the various sounds ever actually gel, but the songs mostly seem to be about the tenuous nature of relationships and other calamities, so a smooth, polished record wouldn't make much sense. If you value things that are unusual and interesting over things that are finely-tuned, you're likely to enjoy the hell out of Ourmegadawn.NOTE: The release show for Ourmegadawn is this Friday, April 11, at Linneman's, with The Fatty Acids, Pushmi-Pullyu and Tweens. You should probably go.