When we last heard from "Baltimore's" Animal Collective—the group is now notoriously spread all over the world—they were basking in the critical and commercial glow of 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion, an accessible, winning collection of inimitable space-pop. Now, welcoming back band-member Deakin (on hiatus since 2007's brilliant Strawberry Jam, which was recorded, ahem, in Tucson), the group returns with Centipede Hz, a busy, schizophrenic and occasionally exceptional release.
Tied together by interstitial radio identifications and white noise, Centipede Hz starts brilliantly with "Moonjock," an elastic, skronky number of endless manic and unhinged charms, which perfectly segues into the mesmeric hiccupping beats, guttural blasts and bleary histrionics of "Today's Supernatural." These songs, fronted by Avey Tare, highlight the group's strengths. But Deakin falters with "Wide Eyed," an overlong number that is lyrically and vocally dull.
Animal Collective's most-notable member, Panda Bear, phones in "Rosie Oh," while the dub-grind of "New Town Burnout" fares only slightly better. Thankfully, Tare helps win the day with "Applesauce," a bittersweet psych-jam; "Father Time," a sweetly wonky mid-tempo tune; "Monkey Riches," a searching, angsty and agitated epic; and closer "Amanita."
Centipede Hz is neither the flop its sharpest critics suggest—it is schizophrenic, but that's entirely purposeful—nor is it a raw, anti-commercial return to form that others champion. If anything, the album is a rejoinder, to detractors and celebrators alike, that elucidates Animal Collective's significance.