Given that they share similar anti-corporate business ethics, if very different musical aesthetics, it's surprising that it has taken so long to see a successful union of the jam-band, electronic-dance and indie-rock undergrounds.
Until recently, Animal Collective, the Baltimore-to-Brooklyn transplants who've bridged the gaps to bring those worlds together, have been stronger as an ideal than as actual art. The group's live shows, including a high-profile headlining gig at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, were more notable for their Pink Floyd-worthy lighting displays than for free-flowing sounds that, at their worst, devolved into hippies-with-bongos arrhythmic clatter--a hipster version of the Grateful Dead's dreaded "Drums and Space" wank-fests.
Meanwhile, though the band's prolific recordings often had moments of promise, those were outnumbered by the bouts of unfocused over-indulgence. But on "Merriweather Post Pavilion," the group's ninth studio album released on Tuesday, the newly pared-down trio of the trippily named Avey Tare (a.k.a. Dave Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Geologist (Brian Weitz) sobered up long enough to polish and perfect their song craft, yielding a psychedeli-pop masterpiece winning praise from every corner as an irresistibly sunny idyll in ever darkening times.
Just as exciting, this new concision and welcome emphasis on infectious melodies and more propulsive rhythms also were in evidence when the group took the stage Thursday night at Metro before a sold-out crowd of worshipful fans, including quite a few who were living embodiments of the band's musical mergers. (Think indie/emo geeks sporting hippie dreadlocks and Day-Glo raver face paint.)