As for many others, Animals was the album that introduced me to the mind blowing and unique math rock band TTNG. When I first listened to the band (‘This Town Needs Gun’-era) I was blown away by the guitar riffs, drums and how this vocalist Stuart Smith managed to interweave, almost strategically, within such complex song writing, timing structures and all the other good stuff this prolific math rock band is known for.
In Animals Acoustic, Stu is back for this album for the first time in seven years and better than ever. Whilst Stu doesn’t play around too much with changing phrasing or tones (not saying there aren’t some great little changes here and there) as much as the other instrumentation on this album, he doesn’t need to. For me in first finding this band, Stu’s vocals were the rock to follow along to these complex songs, they helped me remember sections, be able to sing along and really connect with this band. I feel Stu’s vocals, and Henry’s, are one of the reasons TTNG has been easy to get into for a lot of people, especially those who wouldn’t usually listen to technical music, or get excited by the incredible musicianship, complex riffs and interesting time signatures.
The production on this 10-year anniversary acoustic version of Animals isn’t overdone, which adds to the beauty of it. For some of the songs you feel as if you’re sitting in a room with the band and seeing how incredibly skilled these musicians are, seeing that, yes, they can play all this crazy shit live and execute it with ridiculous precision.
The band has really pushed revisiting these special songs in new ways and a lot of care has obviously gone into crafting this alternate version of the album. Special guests include Nate Kinsella, Yvette Young, Mivos Quartet and The Kraken Quartet, which add layers of other instrumentation, percussion and elements throughout the album. Strings, trumpet, harp, double bass, that little xylophone, clapping and many other acoustic instruments are key features on this album. This only adds to the beauty, and pure joy in listening to this album again. These additional instruments are brought in to diversify the listening experience and add effect to certain emotions. The piano version of Crocodile, had to be one of my favourite examples of this.
Go have a listen, with good headphones or speakers, and just sink into the beauty and emotion that this special version of Animals conveys. It is a completely fresh take on the original album and delves more into the emotion driven elements in the band, something that I personally connected with a lot.