The ’60s had the Fugs, the Godz and Holy Modal Rounders. The ’70s had Gong. The ’80s had the Flaming Lips and the ’90s had the No Neck Blues Band. And if there was one band that defines the ushering of the age-old freakadelic communal folk-rock movement in the early days of this 21st century, you’d be lying to yourself if you mentioned anyone else before Brooklyn’s Animal Collective.
Since the DIY release of its 2000 debut, “Spirits They’ve Gone, Spirits They’ve Vanished,” this group has challenged its audience with some of the most mystical, menacing and in some cases migraine-inducing sounds of the last five years. On “Feels,” however, the AC finally appears ready to be eaten by the moray eels of its own underground superstardom.
Once again plugging in to counteract the acoustic acid test of last year’s outstanding “Sung Tongs,” the band staves off the full-blown chaos of 2003’s “Here Comes the Indian” in favor of a more controlled freak out. There are even a couple of songs on here fit for FM radio: the high impact opener, “Did You See The Words,” equals anything off Mercury Rev’s “Boces,” and its equally upbeat follow-up, “Grass,” seems tailormade for the soundtrack to the next Zach Braff film.
Yes, there are shades of mellower, headier times on the commune here as well. Cosmic campfire jams like “Bee” and “Banshee Beat” rank high on the shortlist of the most sublime Avey and Panda compositions to date. Things go even darker on “Loch Raven,” which sounds like Sigur Ros on a major Red Krayola fix before closing on an upswing with “Turn Into Something,” as likely a candidate for Rhino’s inevitable “Grandchildren of Nuggets” box set as AC have ever turned in.
“Feels” is by far the most agreeable Animal Collective yet, but whether or not that’s a good thing is for you to decide.