by Shaina Vriezelaar
Animal Lover's Stay Alive is a beautiful post-punk mess of rollicking drums, closed-loop bass lines, and waves of aggressive dirt-pedal guitar. I found myself jolted into strange, nihilistic wonder listening just before midnight on a Monday. Featuring a bleak fend-for-yourself title, the band's fourth release is a caustic, genre-adjacent exploration of a kind of self-created zone of alienation; the album art depicts a person reaching downwards on a reversed doorway, which, to me, formed a pretty eloquent synecdoche for the record's contents. Animal Lover present the kind of weird and angry that form when a sputtering machine comes alive for the first time.
Opening with the strangely hypnotic and lo-fi arrhythmia of “Intro,” the trio proceeds to bob and weave their way through this album, at times attacking in curtains of blistering feedback (“Dreamhouse”) or conducting punchy, forward-driving krautrock beats (“High Noon”), vacillating dangerously between savage and controlled. At other times, the band slips into Coil-esque industrial territory, including a pounding and thumping railway mimesis (“Jerk the Technician”), an overdriven-yet-twinkly piano interlude (“Refrain”), or an entirely-reversed track (“Nuclear Theme”) to add yet more definitional sound to the chaos of the album's internal machinery. The penultimate track, “Caramel Again,” features ringing lead-guitar notes and hushed vocals, creating a strange and inexplicable post-rock vibe before the driving and anthemic “Waterparks of America” closes out the album with a kind of garage-rock farewell. The album itself forms a kind of odd post-punk seclusion that is all at once apocalyptic, anarchic and restrained.
The strongest track on the album occurs towards the beginning; “Dreamhouse,” is a head-on collision between Melt-Banana and Perfect Pussy, featuring addition and subtraction of subtle harmonic lines above and below the main arterial flows of melody and tempo. The vocals and the instrumentation come together gruesomely well, sounding like a shoegaze track left in a self-cleaning oven. It is also a fantastic and amazing testament to the over-the-top distortion the band is capable of.
Within the intended backwardness of Animal Lover's song structure and their variegated genre experimentation, this post-punk collage comes together in a way that is both awesome and self-driving, a phenomenal foray into the kind of art that this group can pump out. Being a 12”, Stay Alive is bite-sized in length, arguably its only weak feature; the intensity of its sound almost demands a longer runtime. It's entrancing and horrendous, in a way that makes me want to shotgun the band's entire discography in one sitting. I dig it. You will too.