Music Reviews
Time Skiffs

Animal Collective Time Skiffs

(Domino) Rating - 6/10

“Time may very well lend Merriweather Post Pavilion a legend extraordinary enough to faithfully capture its myriad treasures. By the time that happens, if it ever does and if we could even tell, Animal Collective will be somewhere else entirely, stoned and oblivious, making something new.” — No Ripcord review, January 2009.

I listened to Merriweather Post Pavilion again recently, the taste of the complimentary Kool-Aid that accompanied its phenomenally overhyped release all but a distant memory. It’s a decent enough album, sure, but 'myriad treasures’ reads like pure hyperbole. Its ‘extraordinary legend’ is the bizarre tale of a music press losing its collective mind over a seven-out-of-ten kind of record. What seemed timeless in early 2009 now sounds very much of its time. To be brutally honest, I think it’s one the more egregious 10/10 ratings in our history.

Obviously, an awful lot has changed since 2009. Animal Collective, though, remains largely unaltered, ‘stoned and oblivious’ to prevailing trends. The hype train may have long departed its station, but neither the Baltimore quartet nor its loyal fanbase seems overly concerned about its fading relevance.

Indeed, I find Animal Collective a strangely uninviting proposition in 2022. I know I used to like them; I just can’t quite remember why. Time Skiffs, the band’s fourth post-MPP release, offers few reminders. Navigating the well-trodden paths at the margins of rock and psychedelia, there are no major surprises here. It’s an album that feels familiar, cohesive, pleasant—but never genuinely thrilling.

Strung with Everything is the closest Time Skiffs comes to offering a standout, but at nearly seven minutes, even this manages to outstay its welcome. Elsewhere, moderate mid-tempo plodders dominate, like Passer-by and the dreary Walker, less a song, more an interminable verse. Car Keys is better, but the jerky rhythms and grating harmonies are hardly new.

Time Skiffs could well be a concept album about diminishing returns. This increasingly arid well is the only source Animal Collective knows and every futile visit, every attempt to reimagine the highs of their technicolor hey-day, seems doomed.

It is debatable whether Animal Collective ever truly blazed new trails—I could be persuaded either way—but these days its members appear diminished, former pioneers reduced to mere sonic pedestrians, shuffling along at a steady pace. Time Skiffs isn’t terrible; it’s inoffensive, nice, surprisingly easy-going. But isn’t that the most damning judgement of all? To think this band was the future once.