Glass Animals

Zaba

When I interviewed Glass Animals in 2012, there was very little information about them available. So, instead of doing any real journalism, I asked questions like "If you had your own crystal menagerie, what animals would it house?". They drew a picture of a creature – half llama, half unicorn – wearing Nike blazers and eating a watermelon. I suspect it was rendered using Microsoft Paint. Their drawings and answers were so terrifying, insane and wonderful that I thought their debut album, Zaba, would be a grotesque carnival soundtrack. It actually sounds a bit like Wild Beasts having an orgy on a water-bed, and although that doesn’t immediately sound so disappointing, it very much is.

It begins well. Opener ‘Flip’ is slippery, mellow, and sexy. Dave Bayley’s voice overcomes it’s own Englishness to project come-hither tones over efficient yet heavy bass. And then, two and a half minutes in, everything goes wrong. It becomes rousing. There’s even a drop, for goodness sake. It’s like Elbow playing Soulwaxmus. There’s a portion of song tacked on the end to satisfy wayfarer wearers, and it feels completely unnecessary.

This theme continues throughout Zaba. Glass Animals don’t seem to realise that the climax of a song doesn’t have to be so overtly climatic. At their best, they swirl delicate electronica with flirtatiousness. It’s quietly funky. But it’s made by some guys from Oxford. And their insanity, while great in their interviews, sounds ridiculous over a sensual backing track – ‘Black Mambo’ features the lyrics "Tickle head gin can take your throne/ Pump your veins with gushing gnomes."

Earthy clacks made by wooden instruments that you’d find in a primary school percussion box give Zaba a Tropicool vibe, and sounds a bit like Vampire Weekend being forced through vaginal walls. ‘Hazey’ is particularly fleshy and rich, while ‘Cocoa Hooves’ harbours the hand-clap to great effect. It’s all a pleasant listen, with ‘Toes’ presenting a peak during the album’s latter half. That is until closer ‘JDNT’ lumbers in, a song with a radio-friendly chorus that’s signposted more heavily than the portaloos at a festival.

Glass Animals sound like they are on the cusp of everything. There’s a gap between their vocabulary and their sound, their choruses and their intros, their obvious intelligence and what they’ve produced. Zaba is a good debut, but it feels like it’s absorbed too much of the current Clean Bandit-drenched climate. ‘Gooey’ may as well have been written by AlunaGeorge. It’s a great track, but it highlights the fact that this album needed to be released two years ago. Glass Animals are probably more autonomous than they sound, but my ears don’t care. I’ve heard it all before.

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