Dear Reader - Idealistic Animals
No-one can deny the endeavour. Inspired by a crushing loss of religious faith that turned her world upside down, Cherie McNeil’s follow-up to Dear Reader's Replace Why With Funny is a seriously cathartic exercise. Plaintive but inspirational, disquieting but oddly uplifting, here’s opposites attracting on a canvas of crackerjack creativity. If, at times, Idealistic Animals feels a little twee (and McNeil’s sweetly childlike tone is hardly the vehicle to add ‘edge’), it deserves thumbs up for managing its deeply introspective journey minus melodrama or overstatement.
It makes its case quietly but it makes it loud and clear. It’s best on the likes of ‘Giraffe (What’s Wrong With Us’), where ghostly introspection is replaced by an upbeat and infectiously melodious groove. If McNeil pulls you in from the off (“I ached myself awake,” she all but whispers on opener ‘Fox (Take Your Chances)’), she takes sharper hold when she loosens up. ‘Camel (Not Black or White but Camel)’ generates an uproarious whirl that brings to mind early Kate Bush (in particular, the at-one-with-nature reveries of Never For Ever.) If this album’s playfulness is the velvet glove to its undeniable punch, it’s evidence that McNeils’ really wild show parades more animal instinct than just the mere novelty of its song titles. She walks with the animals, talks with the animals.
Self-examination (winningly, Idealistic Animals avoids self-pity and suggests its creator has found peace with her new world view) is rarely this appealing. Got a heart? Listen in.