A sense of dread creeps over you when a band says they’re going to “reimagine” their catalogue. Maybe they’re out of ideas? A record deal to fulfil? Bills to pay? For TTNG, it’s to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their well-received debut. So why does ‘Animals Acoustic’, a stripped back reinterpretation of the whole album, feel so uninspired?
‘Animals’ was always a light-fingered, delicate record. There are no layers of distortion to wade through to find each song’s soul. Hence, the acoustic treatment hardly shifts the overall sound. Dirty production means ‘Animals Acoustic’ isn’t even as beautiful as the original.
If this is a “reimagining”, what’s to stop the songs being more interesting, or more accessible? Why isn’t the disappointingly muted call/response section of ‘Lemur’ presented as a bigger hook? Shackled to the originals, these songs can’t be something new, but could have avoided becoming so lacklustre. Recording took just two weeks, given a chance to breathe it might not have felt so rushed.
In parts, it’s brilliant. The guitar work remains sparkly and elegant, notably on ‘Baboon’. ‘Gibbon’ is arresting in its simplicity and was an excellent choice as a teaser. ‘Crocodile’ is now a lovely piano ballad. Henry Tremain is the only member of the three-piece who appeared first time around. Here, his singing dominates, but his voice doesn’t always fly. The best songs have an Idlewild-y feel; on others, he’s rough and unfriendly.
Breaking things up, the band enlist the help of guest musicians (such as Nate Kinsella, The Kraken Quartet and The Mivos Quartet) who only detract or bury the songs. If you’re into brass, rejoice. If not, brace yourself, the honking horns that blunder across ‘Panda’ are horrible. Similarly, ‘Elk’ is still the soundtrack to a Hovis advert. New string accompaniments don’t feel complementary either, especially when they saw across ‘Rabbit’ like the opening to Psycho.
A missed opportunity: ‘Animals Acoustic’ functions as a curio for fans, but offers little to anyone else.
‘Animals Acoustic’ byTTNG is released on 5th October by Sargent House Records.
Words by Ian Kenworthy (@WhisperingSand)