Early last year Chicago’s Animal City released See You in the Funny Pages and it took most of the year for any other album to best it. It will be just as challenging to top their new Shitty Movie tape. Pastiching elements as disparate as The Who and Wreckless Eric, Silkworm and Stevie Wonder, Animal City celebrates the end of the shittiest winter ever with a summer’s worth of frenetic punkadelics. The band has said in interviews that they started gigging as a wedding band, learning Motown classics, and, almost as an afterthought, tightening up as musicians. It shows, I think–this is some swinging, soulful shit. Being able to coalesce your seemingly disparate identities is always impressive to me–it’s pretty badass to say “maybe my oddity makes more sense than I think it does” when we’re raised with a limited selection of valid identities. Maybe working as a hired band can feed back into your original music. You’d think it’s a fault line you wouldn’t want to go near–the line between your self-pleasing and crowd-pleasing talents–but Animal City drill right down into it. My heart swells at lines like this:
She fucks all my clothes and borrows my friends
It’s a total love reaction. I love this album. I love that this is on cassette, too. Cassettes get the same backlash as anything groups of weirdos enjoy–it’s indulgent to favor anything “obsolete”–but I stand by them. I’m young enough to never have had to listen to a cassette after I was, like, twelve years old, but I always had cassette players in my cars growing up. New CDs at the mall still cost around $18, whereas Loretta Lynn’s Gospel Favorites will always be $2 on cassette at Goodwill. Obviously, cassettes are complex–they make it hard to navigate through albums, they break easy, but they also facilitated the mixed tape and opened up the possibilities of sampling and changed bedrooms into studios. So not just in consuming art, but also in producing it, I support “cassetteness,” by which I mean self-determined combinations of the seemingly disparate materials of the universe. The music on Shitty Movie is glowing with cassetteness. From the aforementioned incorporation of bits of Wreckless Eric and The Who songs (which don’t function as mere samples but move the album forward powerfully), to the way the songs bleed into each other (not through melodic sameness, but smart transitions such as those samples), to the multiple distinct songwriters and how ably their voices move in and out of each other’s songs, to the dubby midwestern adaptation of “Dixie” that closes the album–this is a compilation of a mess of bonkers material into a self-contained block of music that makes gorgeous sense and loves all its own contradictions and oddity.
But all good rock is oddity–so you have a frame of reference even if you don’t know it–if you’re here on Ninebullets then there should be nothing separating this from the rock of Two Cow Garage or Possessed by Paul James, which is just as odd. If I had a car at the moment, this cassette would never leave it. Essential Listening.