Animal Kingdom - Manchester Academy 2
Another possibility, another sliver of hope. Those of us who really do fall far too easily for gangs of scruffy looking blokes who deliver spectral, spidery guitar shuffle and dynamics that sidestep obvious major/minor downshifting, should be looking in. Animal Kingdom are defiantly anti British Indie Standard. There is almost something, if not American, then American-ised about the way they don't bash you over the head with the ebb and flow of their anthems and their approximation of hook or chorus.
They are here as support to Silversun Pickups but the packed room greets them with whoops and applause. Anyone here to see the LA quartet is easily geeky enough to have sought out the full extent of the bill in advance, or they know enough about the openers from the slight buzz of press and radio play they're now starting to attract. Those of us cheeky enough to take the freebie because we have a soft spot for the headliners very quickly put away our wariness and pull out the pad. Animal Kingdom may well have the least appealing band name on earth right now but bloody hell, they turn heads tonight. There is a single called 'Tin Man', out now, which is spare and spacey, as fragile as it is electrifying. 'Chalk Stars, which starts out as disqueting and delicate as Radiohead's 'No Surprises', gathers momentum and muscle, climaxes like a virgin in a brothel. Beyond that, I'm out of names but it's all rather marvellous. Melodies draw lines so subtle, almost shapeless, you simply don't see them at first but they come back to me later as I'm trying to sleep, ears ringing like an unanswered phone. (When a day or so later, I eventually lose the one that really got me, and can't recall it no matter how many Zen-like, brain-clearing exercises I try, it almost hurts. I fret over whether I'll find it on the album. Ridiculous, I know.)
Singer Richard Sauberlich has a voice that inhabits an unfashionably higher register; it fits its backing perfectly. Others have noted the usual suspects (Buckley, Yorke) and that's fine, if not a little overbearing. I'm put very much in mind of Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue, another singer who knows just how to pitch the eerie gentility of his voice into the squall behind him. Later in the year Animal Kingdom release their debut album, recorded with Phil Ek, who has previously twiddled knobs for Fleet Foxes and Band Of Horses (who they supported on tour last year.) It's that kind of empathetic touch that should hopefully ensure Animal Kingdom exit the blocks properly, with something soulful and involving (rather than just atmospheric and dynamic) under their belts. Genuinely intrigued.