Like the Denver-based Elephant 6 collective of the ’90s, Milwaukee’s Bread King collective has come to define a specific time and place—in this case, Milwaukee circa present day. Part of that dominance is due to sheer numbers: Bread King members can be found doing time with Temple, Calliope, Myles Coyne & The Rusty Nickel Band, The Zelda Routine, The Calamity Janes, and more. Unlike Elephant 6, however, which gave rise to breakout bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Apples In Stereo, no clear frontrunner has emerged from the Bread King ovens. On their first full-length album, Ourmegadawn, collective mainstays Animals In Human Attire (featuring the ever-present Myles Coyne on bass) make a play for top-billing status with a willfully untidy collection of folk, bluegrass, Americana, psych-rock, and anything else that happens to be lying around.
Jack Tell assumes frontman duties for the group, though it’s easy to hear the influence of another Jack—White, that is—on opener “Ant Farm,” a rollicking start-and-stop roller coaster that plays like White Blood Cells-era White Stripes for the kitchen-sink folk set. Not that the influence lasts long: “Wind Waker” flirts with emo-drenched post-rock; “Breaking Point” recalls the shambling gait of Pavement before breaking into unhinged shouts of joy; and “South Pole Mountain Song” cribs an opening that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Maritime album. Still, for all its disparate influences, Ourmegadawn belongs to Tell. His unhinged vocals dominate the proceedings, giving the album an unmistakable—though sometimes unruly—edge. Musically, his cohorts effortlessly follow his lead, pulling and stretching songs well past their natural breaking points, often to dramatic effect. (See: the sprawling “Sun Machines.”)
Uneven by design, Ourmegadawn is only occasionally greater than the sum of its collective parts, but its two main attractions pull things together nicely. The banjo-heavy “Cathexis” is an alternately unsteady and yelp-y concoction that scores big on a deliciously woozy chorus. “Hell,” meanwhile, is a street-fest-ready barnstormer highlighted by some terrific, plainspoken lyrics. “I’d rather see your flaws than the so-called perfection,” croons Tell midway through the song. It’s a poignant sentiment and a fine description of Ourmegadawn as a whole: It’s not perfect, but why would you want it any other way?
Animals In Human Attire celebrate the release of Ourmegadawn Friday, April 11 at Linneman’s. The Fatty Acids and Pushmi-Pullyu open.
- "Sun Machines"