It’s no surprise I’ve been on a steady diet of Maggot Stomp releases and ’90s Finnish Death Metal as of late, so as is expected from the consistency this blog is known for, strap in for some Canadian jingly indie punk.
Animal Boy from Guelph, ON have just dropped their second (third if you count this early album that looks like it’s under a different name on Bandcamp) album, I’m Having a Bad Dream, Baby to our little scene’s acclaim. You might be confused why I’m writing about this and you might not know what a Guelph is, but to quote the printing on the CD of their last album: FUCK YOU, IT’S ANIMAL BOY.
Animal Boy is a project led by Tommy Davies, and I honestly don’t quite know the scope of it. I know that performing live they operate as a pretty traditional four-piece: singer-guitarist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer, but in the studio I don’t know how much of the music Davies writes and performs himself. I could just ask him, but this is a pretty good way to marginally pad the word count of this review while also not having to interact with someone you’ve only met once whose album you’ve decided to review without telling them.
Clocking in a svelte 32 minutes, Bad Dream continues the aesthetic Animal Boy laid out in their last album Do You Really Believe??? with a catchy blend of brash punk attitude and chimey-guitared introspective indie rock. It’s the soundtrack to a nervous, young suburbia. There are a lot of complicated emotions swirling around in people, and Animal Boy is doing their best to navigate them, one by one. This is music for people who have learned that they are not okay, and need an outlet to accept that it’s okay to not be okay. That may be a little heavy handed and may be the cultural soup-du-jour, but I gotta commend it to Davies and co. for tackling it regardless.
Most songs clip by at an upbeat pace, driving drums and palm muted power chords giving way to slick little licks and leads. “Chemical Thing” brings some overdriven guitar shots through the second verse onwards making a call and response as Davies sings “If you pick up the phone I’ll be there in an hour// with a bottle of [unkown] and my best lies”. The lyrics can seem a little too straight forward if you strip them away from their delivery and their accompaniment, but even the on-the-nose first lines yelled out (“I’m having a fucking panic attack// I’m having an existential crisis”) carry real weight to them when flanked by swift, saturated chords and ringing crashes, and when howled out with enough conviction.
I think that’s the core to this album and why it seems to keep making its way into my rotation over this past weekend. No matter how edgy my listening habits get with an onslaught of Belphegor and Malignant Altar, these high energy bops keep drawing me back in. In a way this reminds me of the honest-to-a-fault punk stylings of AJJ and Jeff Rosenstock and you can really hear how much Bad Dream is a product of passion and not just a couple local kids trying to make a break. Growing up with the impassioned DIY, stick-to-your-guns mentality of hardcore and metal gives me a real appreciation for the vulnerable and Devil-may-care attitude this album carries with it. Having the sense for developing earworm hooks and catchy melodies and harmonies helps too, and Animal Boy has those in spades, here. The choruses of singles “Nimbus” and “Also-Ran” both pop back into my head more often than I care to admit, but they’re good enough that I’m okay with it.
Production here is far better than Do You Really Believe??? with added clarity and punch to everything without sacrificing the lo-fi garage tones captured. The whole thing has a live off the floor vibe which suits Animal Boy well. They’re definitely a band to see live if you can, and I think Bad Dream captures some of their in-person bombast well. Believe???‘s almost hour long run time was honestly bit of a slog, so despite the relative sameiness of a lot of the tracks on this record, it’s done and dusted before any amount of fatigue can set in. There are some nuances between songs, don’t get me wrong, but I think if Bad Dream pushed 40 minutes I wouldn’t hold it in as high regard as I currently do.
I don’t really have a way to work in this last part, but Animal Boy uses weird samples a few times throughout this album and as someone who fucking loves bands like Mortician and Pig Destroyer, it’s a nice surprise to hear in other genres.
I’m Having A Bad Dream, Baby was released independently on September 5th. As far as I know, It’s only available on Spotify right now, so check that shit out, pronto.