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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Animal Bag - s/t & Offering

Band: Animal Bag
Albums: *S/T & ~Offering
Years: *1992 & ~1993
Style: Grunge, Alterna-Metal
Similar Bands: Alice In Chains, "Real Thing" Faith No More, Mother Love Bone
"One-Word" Review: Scuz-Dirty-Alterna-Noise-Rock*; Mollases-Drenched-Acoustic-Folk~
Based Out Of: Charlotte, North Carolina
Label: Stardog Records, Mercury, PolyGram
* Animal Bag - Cover & Back Liner Notes
*Animal Bag - Interior Liner Notes & Lyrics
* Animal Bag - Back Cover & CD
~Offering - Cover & Back Liner Notes
~Offering Interior Liner Notes
~Offering Back Cover & CD
*Animal Bag - S/t
  1. Darker Days 5.39 (sample)
  2. Hello Cosmo 3.41 (sample)
  3. Missing Out 4.00 (sample)
  4. Cheerful Mary in the Rain 5.33 (sample)
  5. Moonsong 5.19 (sample)
  6. Hate St. 5.36 (sample)
  7. Personal Demons 6.55 (sample)
  8. Mirrored Shade 3.47 (sample)
  9. Everybody 4.40 (sample)
  10. Another Hat 4.34 (sample)
  11. Oddball 4.29 (sample)
  12. City Song 2.48 (sample)
  13. Last One 3.39 (sample)

    1. If I...4.02
    2. Dun Ringill 4.24
    3. Tom 3.36
    4. Wooden Ships 5.10
    5. Mother 4.11
    6. Last One 3.30
    7. Moment 2.37
Album Rating (1-10):
*S/T: 4.5
~Offering: 3.5

Members & Other Bands:Luke Edwards - Vox, Guitars, Keyboards*~(Tater)
Rich Parris - Guitars, Mandolin, Vox*~
Otis - Bass, Vox*~
Boo - Drums*~
Guy Charbonneau - Producer, Engineer, Mixer*
Charlie Bouis - Engineer, Asst. Mixer*
Eddy Schreyer - Mastered*
Annie Patton - Management*~
Bobby Carlton - A&R*~
Michael Bays - Are Direction*
Klotz - Illustration & Design*~
Caroline Greyshock - Photography*~
Ron Day - Producer, Engineer, Mixed~
Steve Heinke - Engineer, Mixed~

Unknown-ness: As I bought these albums a long long time ago, I don't even remember why I did. Now I know 'Everybody' was featured on the pilot episode of My So Called Life, and I know his voice is produced to sound a little like Mike Patton's first album with Faith No More; 'Real Thing'. But I don't remember if I knew that before or after I got the CDs. And somehow I ended up with two. From cover art design, they look like they will be jam bands. But the years of 92-93 secures the belief that they will be alterna-grunge. And the Offering Ep says it was recorded in a friend's living room in Hollywood, so perhaps it has a stripped down, "un-plugged" sound.

Album Review: A time capsule of sound, Animal Bag is the perfect sealed canister of 92-93 music. It exemplifies all the distortion, vocal style, song structure, and art design that was smiled upon in the era of "grunge" (even now, that is a hard word to say without sounding like a parent trying to understand youth and be cool). For the most part, Animal Bag's musical interpretation of that time period is the dulling down of sharp metal ideas with the fuzz and noise of alternative production. They still possess the slightly harmonic vocals of prog and the loud guitar solo wails of metal (especially in the angry fast paced, shout match that is Hate St.). But there is an underlining funky groove (the all encompassing funky "Everybody") that makes it not exactly metal. The self titled album has that filthy, unclean feel to it; a once a month shower, the same smelly clothes, like a cartoon, the slacker flannel tied around the waist, yet never worn. And somehow, fond memories are attached to this time period of music. The Offering EP is like a 45 played at 33: Slow and dragging.

"Darker Days" is the first track. Quiet, natural sound starts off the album with a whistle, chatting, and laughter. It then erupts into a loud, distorted guitar hook. Whiny Layne Staley type harmonized vocals accompany the guitar and drums. The song cruises along, fueled by guitar licks and restful chorus breaks. It is one of those impossibly long songs, with sections that could continue repeating to infinitum. "Hello Cosmos" is a jangly acoustic apology letter. The vocals are similar to the style forced upon Patton to sing on "From Out Of Nowhere." One loud guitar solo bursts to the surface right before the song slowly winds down. The quiet is quickly disrupted by a loud thick guitar played through fuzz. The guitar drowns out the drums and bass until they seem like a pathetic unnecessary bit part. The chorus is a child's playground chant "Afraid Of Missing Out." The vocals sound like a Patton-Staley cross-breed. Dirty Psychedelia guitar begins the next track. Lullaby-like melodic vocals mesmerize, saying "While She Sleeps" roll along until we are bombarded with more loud fuzz-guitar. The bass is more prevalent than before, but only in small bits. The song ends the way it began, making a pleasant dream sandwiched around a loud, fast nightmare. "Moonsong" picks up the psychedelia dream again, and sounds like a poorly warped Bowie song.

The longest song on the album is "Personal Demons." Stylistically metal-prog, the song has many distinct musical sections all soldered together with instrument changed and tempo breaks. Acoustic folk is also an element in their music, proudly displayed with a mandolin on "Mirrored Shade" & a little harder varient with "Odd Ball." "Another Hat" sounds exactly like Alice In Chains. "City Song" seems like it should to be accoustic, but the bass line is well produced and carries the song nicely. The album ends on a somewhat of an incomplete feel, as you're waiting for the "Last One" to take off, it never really gets there, and winds down instead.

On the other hand, there is Offering. Recorded in a living room, the acoustic feel is immediately evident. Slow, smoky and drudgingly dreary are the basic elements evoked by this CD. This is their Unplugged EP. "If I..." is slow and dreamy. Even half way through when the music picks up energy, the song only floats along its bobbing raft course. It ends in a overly produced rise, and fades out on a high note. Still murky in texture, the second song gently begins, like a motor boat far off downriver in an approaching mist for 2 minutes, until the acoustic guitar trickles in, accompanied by folky, sea-shanty vocals. "Tom" features a guitar hook similar to a friend of mine's old band in a track called "Paisley." It, along with "Wooden Ships" (a cover from CS&N) are slows moving track, like traveling through tar. Mother is finally more upbeat, yet still a little dark. It is quicker paced folk, infused with country lyrically and musically. A re-recording of the last track on their first album, "Last One" is slowed down a bit, but never really goes anywhere. "Moment" wraps up the album, a trippy, jingly, hippy instrumental that echoes daybreak, and the sensation of waking up in an unknown, yet comfortable surrounding.

Together these albums represent two distinct sides of one band. The all-out production of alterna-metal, and the simple pre-song structure of an hazy acoustic set. Both seem familiar and typical once you understand their basic template for song structure, and they both feel a little long as albums stand. But it preserves that era of music and what was trying to be done atristically, all without regret.

Stand-Out Track:S/T: Everybody
Offering: n/a

Links:Animal Bag fan site
Animal Bag Wikipedia
Animal Bag Allmusic
Animal Bag Amazon Review
Animal Bag IMDB
Luke Edwards Interview
Myspace Tater
Tater Official Site

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