HOW TO BE A HUMAN BEING
Bands nowadays are often criticised for not being inventive enough, not interesting enough, and simply not different. The same cannot be said for GLASS ANIMALS, for at a mere two albums in they are exploring territories that their peers have so far only hinted at.
Whereas before the Oxford four-piece had lurked beneath the surface, their music bubbling in the undercurrent, their latest album How To Be A Human Being pushes them upwards to perch on the top of the fray; if their debut album – 2014’s ZABA – could be described as a jungle, then How To Be A Human Being is a menagerie of everything in it. Lead track and early single ‘Life Itself’ is a concoction of exotic beats and wriggling synths, and even though it sounds exotic, it is clear that the topics within their second effort are plainly closer to home.
Each track has its own protagonist, the tales of which they star having been collected from eavesdropping on strangers and time spent on the road. The influence of Jim Jarmusch’s film Night On Earth – a screenplay comprised of five vignettes – is clear; “Daddy was dumb, said that I’d be something special” states Dave Bayley as he begins to weave his first tale, one of the protagonist failing to live up to the ambitions set upon him by others. “I can’t get a job, so I live with my Mom. I take her money but not quite enough”; it’s all rather relatable but so is the sentiment of dragging yourself up.
Oh, it’s also a full-blown interactive experience by the way, for many of the tracks have entire websites dedicated to their protagonists (fire up raygun123.com for an 8-bit rendition of ‘Life Itself’, or dizzyoncaffeine.com, an ode to the tumblr-modern ‘Youth’). Bayley’s dedication to crafting a fully rounded experience – an ode to the vinyl days – is indicative of Glass Animals’ attention to detail for this album, for each track is entwined with nuances, low lying whirring synths and unusual textures, but just when you think you have the band sussed a totally opposing noise is drawn from the bag, such as the flute that laces the slow-burning center-point ‘Mama’s Gun’.
Elsewhere, and the skittish beats and warped vocals of ‘Cane Shuga’ take the album to a different chapter, ‘The Other Side Of Paradise’ positively fizzing with bizarre sound-bites and gaudy synth and similarly so ‘Take A Slice’. There are echoes of Alt-J, and as you listen to album closer ‘Agnes’ – with all its subtle whirs and glitches – you can tell that there is a promise within its soaring chorus, one of grand festival ambitions and a further mingling of their newfound taste for crowd pleasing and their unshakeable eccentricities. It is a venture that is necessary however, and from start to finish this journey leads the listener and the band to unprecedented places. In this way How To Be A Human Being is only the beginning, and an aptly titled one at that.