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Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Animal! / Not... Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7.75
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 7
Production 7.5
Creativity 8.25
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 7.5
Final Verdict: 77%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.31
Musicianship 9.72
Lyrics 9.19
Production 9.38
Creativity 9.66
Lasting Value 9.34
Reviewer Tilt 9.53
Average: 94%

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Animal! / Not...

Reviewed by: Travis Parno (10/10/08)
Margo & the Nuclear So and So’sAnimal!/Not Animal!
Record Label: Epic
Release Date: October 7, 2008

In the arena of the music industry, there are only two combatants: the Artist and the Business. Often these two foes are not actually foes at all, instead choosing to work together towards a mutually beneficial plan of attack. Inevitably, however, complications do arise. These hushed battles regularly result in scorned contracts, financial drain, and broken bands. This is the stuff of music legend.

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s Animal!/Not Animal! is a rare artifact, a Rosetta stone of sorts, that provides a very tangible look into these behind-the-scenes arguments between artist and label. After failing to see eye-to-eye regarding which songs would be included on the band’s second full-length effort, the two sides decided to take a unique approach: release two albums, each showcasing the song selections of each party. Animal! features the songs favored by the band and was released on vinyl and as a digital download. Epic’s picks, found on Not Animal!, can be heard on CD, vinyl, and via download.

The intricacies of Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s can often be difficult to comprehend. The eight-member band throws every imaginable instrument into their tune-filled mixing bowl, together with charmingly (or mind-numbingly) obtuse lyrics, to create a sort of psychedelic/folk/indie/alternative conglomeration. Animal! and Not Animal! prove that the band hasn’t strayed from their musical circus that was first made popular on 2006’s The Dust of Retreat. Still, the question remains: how has their output been affected by their business squabbles?

When one lines the albums up side by side, the differences are not exactly surprising. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s have laid a comprehensive platter of delectably distant and intricate tracks that will satisfy the most artsy indie palettes. Opening with the murk and gloom of “At the Carnival,” the band shows they’re not hand-feeding us their bittersweet treats. Songs such as “O’ What a Nightmare!” and “Mariel’s Brazen Overture” offer many of the complex flavors that were developed on The Dust of Retreat, especially the plethora of instruments, subtle shifts in mood and tempo, and penchant for impenetrable lyrics. “There’s Talk of Mine Shafts,” a comparatively short track that could be overlooked during the feast, proudly displays some of the air of contradiction that surrounds the band. An ostensibly simple song about two lovers hiding underground from the destruction above, it boasts such nightmarish rhymes as “That hole’s a drag, it’s not my bag/ It’s dark and cold, and it smells like mold.” However, when these words are lovingly tucked throughout a web of plucked, trilled, and suspended strings, it’s absolutely impossible to reject their blatant plainness.

There is, of course, some inevitable overlap between the two albums. “Hello, Vagina,” slogs through electronic buzz and can’t quite get out from under its dreary mood. Persistent percussion saves “A Children’s Crusade on Acid” from suffering similar spoil, while “German Motor Car” grooves with slick guitar work and an enlivened chorus. Much like much of Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s library, “Cold, Kind, and Lemon Eyes” and “As Tall As Cliffs” come dangerously close to ‘plodding,’ but are preserved by the band’s tasty brand of vibrant and varied instrumentation.

Animal! functions as a complete course thanks to the nifty side-dishes chosen by the band. Not Animal! is not quite so well-rounded. With most of the overlap inserted into the first half of the album, Not Animal! is left with some weak legs to stand on. It’s hard to argue with the label’s goals. When dealing with a notoriously inaccessible band, it might make business sense to try to boil them down to something a bit easier to swallow. Unfortunately, this group isn’t so easily watered down. Tracks like “The Shivers (I Got ‘Em)” and “The Ocean (Is Bleeding Salt)” feel intentionally forced, the band’s normally effervescent voice choking on unwanted fare. It’s not all stale, thanks to the muted freshness of “Real Naked Girls” and angular brashness “Page Written on a Wall.” The latter, with its heavy helping of smart aggression, may have been better placed as the complement to Animal!’s “My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off)” within the band’s chosen track list.

As individual collections of music, Animal! and Not Animal! each have their merits, to a certain extent. It is somewhat unfortunate, however, that their staying power is eclipsed by their artifactual value. Their utility as objects of study within the framework of the industry will likely echo much deeper into musical history than will their actual songs.

Give it a try if you like…Paper Rival, Sea Wolf, Neutral Milk Hotel, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground

Hear it on the internetzOfficial Myspace | Official Website

Track List(s)Animal!
1. At the Carnival
2. O’ What a Nightmare!
3. Hello, Vagina
4. I Am a Lightning Rod
5. Love Song for a Schubas Bartender
6. Mariel’s Brazen Overture
7. There’s Talk of Mine Shafts
8. A Children’s Crusade on Acid
9. German Motor Car
10. Cold, Kind, and Lemon Eyes
11. My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off)
12. As Tall As Cliffs

Not Animal!
1. A Children’s Crusade on Acid
2. German Motor Car
3. Broad Ripple is Burning
4. Holy Cow!
5. Cold, Kind, and Lemon Eyes
6. Hello, Vagina
7. As Tall As Cliffs
8. Real Naked Girls
9. Page Written on a Wall
10. The Shivers (I Got ‘Em)
11. The Ocean (Is Bleeding Salt)
12. Hip Hip Hooray
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 29
12:13 PM on 10/10/08
War Paint.
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sweethart5349's Avatar
You know, I really enjoyed this album. It definitely helps that they put on a great live show!
Hope everyone has picked up the CD and vinyl! :)
12:31 PM on 10/10/08
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johnh5304's Avatar
This is toward the bottom of my anticipated list but I'll want to give this a chance at some point.
12:36 PM on 10/10/08
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No Avatar Selected
Love this. It is incredible. They are magical
12:46 PM on 10/10/08
theguilt engine
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theguilt engine's Avatar
Amazzzzzing band.
01:55 PM on 10/10/08
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jnkbondtrader's Avatar
is there anywhere to digitally download animal?
03:22 PM on 10/10/08
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airik625's Avatar
I think it deserves a much higher rating.
03:28 PM on 10/10/08
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porttheman's Avatar
ive only listened to a few songs off animal,but so far so good..ill probably finish it up tonight
03:51 PM on 10/10/08
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sweethart is definatly right...tremendous live performance.

sold me on both vinyls that night.
04:02 PM on 10/10/08
Eurotrash Drock
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ive been waiting two years for this. excellent review btw, very well articulated.
05:02 PM on 10/10/08
likes his chicken spicy
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catscradle's Avatar
animal! is much better than your review makes it out to be. It's definitely an album that grows on you and needs to be listened to multiple times before it really starts to sink in. In my mind it's not an album that hooks you immediately. The more you listen and pick up on the little things in each song you begin to really appreciate it and the album really starts to come together. It's definitely not as catchy as the dust of retreat, but i don't think that's what they were going for with this album.

i definitely think its fairly unfounded to say that these songs don't have any staying power. The album as a whole comes together great and individual tracks stand out great on their own, as well as bring the album together as a whole. In my mind that's the making of a great album.

I simply think a 77% is a little low. I could understand an 85%, or there abouts, but not a mid level grade. This album is far from mediocre and your score and review indicate that it is just that.
08:34 PM on 10/10/08
Just Watch The Fireworks
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xhellalujahx's Avatar
It's unfortunate that 77% is deemed a "mediocre" rating on this site, but I guess that's the standard which has been set. In any case, a very well written review. I disagree with the thoughts on "A Children's Crusade On Acid", as that's quite possibly my favourite track alongside Broad Ripple Is Burning. I also love the feel of My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off).

My mix would likely differ from both the bands and labels, but I think it's a great way of releasing the album. Surprised they didn't just compromise and put out a b-sides CD sometime early next year - not that I'm complaining.

All in all, though, great band - two very good mixes.
07:41 AM on 10/11/08
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samleigh's Avatar
not animal! is sooooo gooddd.
08:23 AM on 10/11/08
as we melt, let's make no noise.
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Praetor's Avatar
How can you assume that it has no staying power already? I'm assuming you either downloaded the leak or got an advance, and unless I'm mistaken, it's only been like a week since that's happened. I also disagree with a lot of other stuff that your review mentions but that was really glaring to me. Staying power is not just "will I remember these songs tomorrow?", it's "will I remember these songs in months to come?".
10:54 AM on 10/11/08
Travis Parno
my sensible heart
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Travis Parno's Avatar
animal! is much better than your review makes it out to be. It's definitely an album that grows on you and needs to be listened to multiple times before it really starts to sink in.

How can you assume that it has no staying power already? I'm assuming you either downloaded the leak or got an advance, and unless I'm mistaken, it's only been like a week since that's happened. I also disagree with a lot of other stuff that your review mentions but that was really glaring to me. Staying power is not just "will I remember these songs tomorrow?", it's "will I remember these songs in months to come?".

im glad that people disagree with certain parts of the review. obviously these are the sorts of albums that are organic enough to change with enough listens. however, i write with what i have to go on. maybe after 80 more listens, opinions may change. in terms of the questions about it being too early to rule on staying power, how do you think every other review is done on this site? "Lasting Value" is evaluated in every review and it's true, we often review an album after a week's worth of listenings (usually around 20-25, for me), but that shouldn't necessitate the negation of some sort of predicition. if i could see the future ("in months to come"), im sure it would make things a lot easier.

that said, i calls 'em like i sees 'em. talented band, some truly excellent songs, and some rather dull songs. in the end, i find more interest in the balance of mixes.

and 77% isn't mediocre.

that is all.
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