Animal Collective | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Animal Collective

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Sometimes music that feels like a put-on is just ahead of its time. Problem is, sometimes it really is a put-on, and the disc you've been hoodwinked into loving sits on your shelf in perpetuity as a time capsule of shame. Defenders of Animal Collective stick to the visionary idea, trafficking in the woozy mystagogy with which role-playing gamers attempt to negotiate nookie and neohippies score couch-surfing privileges; their notion that Sung Tongs (Fat Cat), the latest full-length from Collective members Avey Tare and Panda Bear, is a move toward poppy accessibility would sure come as a surprise to fans of Kelly Clarkson (or for that matter the Shins). Tare and Bear are as willfully playful as ever, stretching the Silly Putty vowels in lines like "This house is sad / Because he's not / Tidy" till you can't understand a thing--and that's when they even bother collating their phonetic jumbles into actual words. But the basic melodies and repetitive guitar patterns work as landmarks for those of us who prefer to keep our bearings when we go adventuring. And some jokes cut straight to the punch line, as on "College," a minute or so of wordless Beach Boys harmonizing that coheres into a heartfelt "You don't have to go to college." True, the distinction between "unfettered artistic exploration" and "disappearing up one's own ass" takes an occasional beating here. But judging from the dull folkie sobriety of the Collective's upcoming Prospect Hummer EP--a collaboration with that embodiment of British hippie-era pastoralism, Vashti Bunyan--goofy fecklessness may be the group's greatest virtue. In an age that seeks to shoehorn any creative type into the role of 24-7 entrepreneur, blithely wasting time is almost an act of civil disobedience--or at least the right sort of put-on. Ariel Pink opens. Wed 4/27, 7 and 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

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