The Party at Pou Corner

New York's Animal Collective are judged by a group of their peers.

"I don't get it," Pou croaked, handing the bright blue bong to Christophe Robin. "From the cover, it appears that the Animal Collective are an all-human band. But they don't sound the least bit human to me."Christophe Robin turned, resting the shiny implement on a wide, flat, light-gray rock festooned with wine bottles arrayed symmetrically around the center of attention: an enormous boom box that glittered in the light of the full moon like a miniature Oz. The young adventurer had liberated all of it just that afternoon, from the Big Box Canyon on the other side of the freeway from the Forty-Acre-and-a-Mule Wood. He'd also nabbed Here Comes the Indian (Paw Tracks), the Animal Collective's first proper release as a m鮡ge ࠱uatre. It happened entirely by accident, though. Christophe Robin had never even considered the possibility that the Flawmart staff might be capable of misfiling the disc in the "nature recordings" section. After all, the front of the digipack was all forest streaked with bright acid colors, not a human in sight. He'd figured it was just some real-gone termites or something.

Christophe Robin sparked the bowl and filled his lungs slowly, maintaining eye contact with Pou for the duration of his hit. "I wish there were girls in the Wood," Christophe Robin rasped, smoke spiraling from his nostrils. Suddenly, Tigre bolted to a sitting position. "I'll have one of those," he purred, reaching for the bong. "This band sounds pretty human to me. Although I do have to say that the singer sounds a bit like a giant anime raccoon." The cat twisted around and handed the bong to Piglette, who raised it to a jaunty angle like a saxophonist taking a solo.

CHRISTOPHE ROBIN merrily hoisted a bottle of vintage Chⴥauneuf-du-Pape and fully drained an eighth of its contents in one mighty draught. Then he wiped his mouth on his pirate shirt. "I think it sounds like the Residents," he chuckled, rolling in the grass like a tabby cat on heroin.

"The Residents?" Tigre roared. "That's the best one you've come up with since you lumped Joy Division with Black Oak Arkansas!"

"I dunno," Pou said gravely. "Only a few months ago, he insisted that Goldfrapp sounded like Marianne Faithfull." Pou, who always liked to have a little something or two at 11 in the evening, doubled Christophe Robin's wine intake in a few gurgles. "Get while the getting is good," he said. "At the rate we're going, it'll be back to the brothers Gallo by tomorrow afternoon." He wiped his muzzle on the hem of Christophe Robin's shirt.

Rabbit's voice leapt from a spot in the tall yellow grass near the big rock. "I suppose I can see the similarity in a crass, one-dimensional sort of way. But it's sort of like comparing John Coltrane and Jonathan Richman. The Animal Collective are far more sophisticated than the Residentsand more primal."

"Have you been able to pull up any kind of bio yet?" Pou asked the bespectacled leuciphore, who, having poised his laptop on an ice-cream carton that was discarded earlier in the evening, stood on his hind legs and worked the instrument's keys with his forepaws.

"We'll get to that," Rabbit countered. "First, I plead my case. Back it up to track two, 'Hey Light.'" Tigre tapped the button with a claw. "Good," Rabbit hissed, passing the bong to Pou. "Note, in order, the updated Throbbing Gristle vocal processing in the intro; then, the seamless consolidation of traditional rock instruments and electronics; then, the charmingly pastoral marriage of punk rock, psychedelia, and thoroughly post-Crash Worship tribalism in the body of the song; and finally, a reprise that is every bit as enchanting as it is unexpected. It pauses and then returns, as though a group of sailors were crooning wistfully at the end of the night. And that melody line is lovely enough to have sprung from the mind of Schubert, Mendelssohn, or even Brahms."

RABBIT BOUNDED BACK to his makeshift workstation. Tigre peered over the tall grass to catch a glimpse of the laptop screen reflected in Rabbit's horn rims. How he loved that sight! "Check out these lyrics," Rabbit commanded. "'Hey light/Cut the curtain kids at noon/ Dressed up in their bedtime suits/They should be out walking/Hey light/ I've forgotten work today/Cause a kid can't work all day/You within me walking.' Nothing too Residential there," Rabbit asserted, taking a quick pull from the nearest wine bottle. "They're not nearly nerdy enough. If anything, they sound like they could have been written by one of us."

Pou loaded another bowl. "Actually," he mumbled, "I had a very similar illumination-related thought earlier today when I was out for my morning constitutional."

Suddenly, a wild braying sound startled the party. They looked up to see E. Hors, who had appeared in their midst as if by magic, doing a slow Pee-Wee Herman around the big rock. "Is this the new Residents?" the donkey queried, he ears twisting obscenely toward the boom box.

"Fuck the Residents!" Piglette squealed. "Animal Collective!"

"I know," the droopy-eared, sharp-hoofed ninja answered. "I've been spying from behind that tree over there. I don't think they sound like the Residents, either. I do have to say I like the more abstract material better than the pop stuff, though."

"Pop stuff?" Rabbit asked, passing the smoking bong to E. Hors. "I definitely hear a pop component, in a '60s psychedelic might-have-been sort of way. To me, the song I was just talking about sounds like something Brian Wilson might have done after Pet Sounds if he had gone native instead of nuts. And "Slippi" sounds like Brian Jones might have conjured up circa Their Satanic Majesties Request if he'd been collaborating with angels instead of fools. But there's not a straight pop song on the album. Even the most normal ones dissolve and morph in ways that lead me to peg them as experimentalists. We didn't even think they were human at first, for chrissakes."

"I can understand that," E. said coolly. "I guess I'm talking more about the tracks with no audible basis in pop musicthe ones in the middle of the album."

"You mean the ones that sound like ritual music made by animals for animals? Or at least by humans and animals for same?" Tigre enthused. "I like those best, too!"

POU HAD MIXED feelings about the matter. True enough, he liked all the rich drones, with their combination of processed human voices, animal sounds, and electronicsthe likes of which he'd never heard before. He especially liked "Panic," which sounded like the Animal Collective had enlisted the aid of mountain goats, musk oxen, and something that sound likes a cross between Piglette and Tigre back when Tigre was smaller and didn't eat nearly as much. "Would that be a Tiglette or a Pigre?" he wondered. But "Two Sails on a Sound" he could have sworn emanated from a sixth-dimensional Heffalump. And, goodness knows, the ordinary sorts of Heffalumps frightened him quite enough.

"I suppose I could fully embrace track six if I were in the right sort of ritual," he announced bravely, "and I was wearing a big sword. And a long purple robe, too."

"Silly bear," Christophe Robin giggled. "Although, I must say, this music does make me want to put on a loincloth."

Tigre laughed. "It'd beat those Zubaz you're wearing now!"

"Seriously, Chris," Pou cackled as he fell backward in the grass, "you should at least stop tucking them into your boots."

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