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Countless snippets of sound have been wrangled together to produce Oxford based Glass Animals‘ new album How To Be A Human Being. All of its songs brim with complexity, colour and kookiness. Gorilla grunts and jangly jungle drums are matched with Daft Punk-esque futuristic robot vocals and a choir that sounds like it’s been plucked straight from the 1920s. Terrifically catchy hooks soar above the chaos and the transitions are snappy, begging you to bust a move. The hint of a far away siren blares. It sounds like there’s a party going on in the background almost the entire time.
With his deliciously lazy voice, lead singer and songwriter Dave Bayley sings from the perspective of a mollycoddled layabout in Life Itself. “I can’t get a job so I live with my mum. I take her money but not quite enough. I sit in the car and I listen to static. She said I look fat but I look fantastic.” A hammond organ plays the lead line. Sleigh bells softly jingle. Jabbing synths climb down and up over reverberating bass lines and tribal rolling drums.
Pork Soda starts with background street noise and the words of a rambling man. Hand percussion pitter-patters and deep male voices start to mumble in unison, establishing the vocal hook right from the beginning: “Pineapples are in my head. Got nobody ‘cos I’m brain dead”.
Alongside snappy syncopated drums, a high-pitched synth starts to play the same tune as the warm punchy bass. “Back to the house with your arms round my neck. We drank pork soda with tangled legs. I won’t forget how you looked at me then.” There is a call and response in the chorus between Bayley and a choir that sounds a bit like small children, but is more likely the pitch shifted voices of adults. “Pineapples are in my head…”
Atop of video game sound effects and choral voices in Season 2 Episode 3, Bayley reflects from the perspective of the lover of a weed-smoking lady: “Leftover breakfast, cereal for lunch. She’s broken but she’s fun. My girl eats mayonnaise from a jar when she’s gettin’ blazed. She’s drunk on old cartoons, liquid TV afternoons. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me sad.”
Alongside point scoring, cartoon sound effects, and instrumentation that sounds like it’s been lifted straight from an episode of Monkey Magic, female voices slide along in a melancholic harmony. Despite this flippant soundscape, this song feels really sad.
This is something Glass Animals have mastered with their latest release. Their light heartedness and humour creates a unique, multidimensional space for some pretty serious stuff to be pondered. Behind the kaleidoscope of whirrs and rattles, blips and beeps, How To Be A Human Being is indeed a profound reflection on what it is to be human.