Glass Animals’ first Sydney show is the last concert I can recall walking out of. Back in 2014, the slow drip of material from the Oxford band’s debut ‘Zaba‘, also the first release on super-producer Paul Epworth’s label Wolf Tone, had audiences worldwide rabid for the next bit of manna to fall from the indie rock skies. And then I saw them live, in a small, packed venue, and hated almost every moment. So unusual and refined was the sound Glass Animals pushed on that debut (ably assisted by executive producer Epworth) that you kind of expected them to explode your every fiber in person. Instead, the quirky lyrics of tracks like ‘Flip’ were delivered without the breathy idiosyncrasy we’d come to expect of frontman Dave Bayley; the funky instrumentals that made ‘Gooey‘ so cutting edge came without the militaristic precision we wanted; the Animals’ rarefied sound, on the whole, was sloppy and off-kilter – and not in a good way.
There were two reasons Glass Animals sucked in 2014, only one of which is no longer applicable: they were new to playing live to such enthusiastic audiences, and they were suffering under the curse of an impossible-to-match production. In 2017, they are no longer spring
chickens, but their sophomore effort ‘How To Be A Human Being’ doesn’t inspire much confidence in their ability to pull it off as human
beings: it is as eccentric and wacky as its predecessor, if not more so. It’s for that reason that, despite the bad taste they left me with
in 2014, I’ve returned to their strange embrace this year, resigned to the fact that some bands are only meant to be heard, never seen.
Album opener ‘Life Itself’ might be the best reminder of the hope I once held out for what could have realistically been my favorite band
of 2010-2015. It is a truly unusual piece of music while still being catchy. It hints world music without being snooty. It slides through
two short verses laden with self-deprecation, absurdity and great humor to present itself as an anthem for the deranged, the unconfident, the losers. As a hybrid of some of my favorite elements of contemporary British rock – Metronomy’s litheness, Everything Everything’s dedication to, ha, excess, Alt-J’s uncomfortable sincerity – ‘Life Itself’ is a joy to listen to. I’ll give them another spin when they inevitably arrive on the summer festival circuit and can only hope, for the sake of shattered three-years-ago me, that this song is as much of a riot in person.
Glass Animals – Life Itself