This Town Needs Guns – Animals
Record Label: Big Scary Monsters Records
Release Date: October 13, 2008 (UK) / Late 2008 (US)
Let’s get one thing straight: you bet your ass I’m hyping This Town Needs Guns. Not because cool people like them or because they’re paying me handsomely (hint hint!), but because these British wunderkinds play some of the most pleasurable, complex and somehow relaxing math rock this side of Chicago in the 90’s. As you may have guessed, the long song titles are long gone, only to be replaced by 13 different animals. This concept works wonderfully for two reasons: 1.) I don’t have to bring arthritis upon myself, and 2.) The animals truly represent another inventive, original song. Whether it’s the Minus The Bear guitars of “Gibbon” or the horn-laden, jazz-influenced “Elk,” each new track brings, erm, something new to the table. Animals is a record about stretching. TTNG pull themselves into some odd shapes, but they always bounce back to a familiar, taut form.
What This Town Needs Guns do best is easily debatable, but I’ll throw my hat in the ring and say it’s how the group creates a harmonious dichotomy. Yes, oxymorons are cliché in the reviewing game, but it still fits. Opener “Baboon” places Stuart Smith’s fragile vocals right on top of the zany noodling of guitarist Tim Collis. As Smith glides in and out of falsetto, Collis and bassist Dan Adams jolt around time signatures, creating what can only be described as an abstract sound; Cubism set to music. “Chinchilla” pulses forward with the bass drum of Chris Collis. His antsy, rousing drum fills make for the strongest of spines. Smith lets himself go here, and I think we can all relate: “My God / Is this what we’ve become? / Living parodies of love and loss / Can we really be all that lost?” Pretty emo, I agree, but these moments of self-doubt sound downright therapeutic once the backing chorus makes an appearance. You’ll never want the goosebumps to fade.
Animals is altogether a more refined and restrained effort. Gone is the fuzz inherent in some earlier tracks, and now the slower tunes are filled to the brim with drama. “Crocodile”, for instance, sounds nothing like its namesake, while faster songs like “Lemur” resemble lounge music for the hip and trendy – AKA me. The latter song’s back and forth between the bass and guitar could be packaged as a textbook for teaching younger bands how to feed off one another’s energy. “Panda” is the record’s most discordant tune, but even these moments resolve around the disaffected tenor of Smith (he laments, “Another twinkle in eyes / Caught between awkward glances / Of crowded social scenes / Another breeding ground for apathy). I won’t call him the voice of a generation because I have no idea if such a statement has any merit, but I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job speaking for yours truly.
I always seem to picture the band’s guitar parts as huge pencils that spit out elegant calligraphy. It’s beautiful but hard to take in at once. Animals needs a large chalkboard and plenty of chalk. You’ll be sure of your favorite track one day and question such a choice the next. Maybe today it’s the way Smith worries about using pills on “Pig”, but tomorrow the billowing strings of “Rabbit” might knock you down. Study Animals with the diligence it deserves and you’ll walk away with a knowledge you never expected.
Recommended If You Like: American Football, Ghosts and Vodka w/ lyrics, awe or something like it, Cats and Cats and Cats, Georges Braque