Marking a cornerstone on the path of alternative music in the 21st century, Glass Animals hit back with their successor to the debut ‘Zaba’ 2 years later, managing to deliver ‘that difficult second album’ while nailing it to the absolute tee.
Swimming defiantly against the wave of Adidas clad youths of our era, Glass Animals manage to provide lucid, hard-hitting drum beats with some actual substance, encasing rhythms that have you tapping the steering wheel or swaying without you even realising it. A very fitting way to start How to be a Human Being with ‘life itself’, elegantly kicking off with the glistening sound of a fairy-tale beginning before dropping us into that oh so familiar ineffable drumline that we all fell in love with the minute ZABA reached our decks for the first time. I find myself trying to compare the opener to tracks such as Black Mambo but the energy that Lead singer Dave Bayley manages to sustain throughout, allowing the crisp echoes of his vocals to provide goose bumps that carry all the way through any instrumental, I found myself too mesmerised by their rejuvenated sound.
I would like to say Jungle meet Alt-j, but no intuitive mix-mashing will be able to tie down the refreshing, alt-rock 4-piece that seem to produce music right from the soul, creating an out of world experience in just 4 minutes a slice. What you have to understand about these Oxford boys is that no matter how many shows they play; how many different size venues they host; they always manage to give that personal performance that resonates with every fan through the silent confidence and warming presence, and Reading Festival 2016 this summer was no exception.
I must say though, if you are to draw out the full experience that this album has to offer, headphones are a must. This is primarily to help grip tightly onto the endearing choice of sampling building up the many cohesive layers, ranging from cat meows in ‘Mama’s Gun’ to the nostalgic bleeps of 90s video games in ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ which we all lost countless hours in during our childhood. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone bring old school so effortlessly into something that couldn’t be any more now.
The stand out track for me on the album has got to be ‘Pork Soda’ – if not for the fact that it provides some of the waviest imagery to come from an album in 2016 with lines such as ‘pineapples in my head’ and ‘climbed the cliff edge and took the plunge’ then for its ability to engulf you in the beat from the first second with an adventurous sample of horse trots. It is impossible to not encase yourself in a Glass Animals back-beat, but they do not cease to do so from countless new angles. Certainly impressive.
Transitioning between ‘Cane Shuga’ and ‘[premade sandwiches]’ is harsh. But it works. The intensity of the album is mellow throughout however carries many uplifts, whether that be the distorted vocals of Cane Shuga’s chorus or the staircase of synth ringing hollow in your head before the track’s outro in ‘Mama’s Gun’. So cutting into deafly silence before 2 seconds later plummeting into a double speed low octave commentary on queuing provides little surprise from an album packed with so many hidden doors and two-way sonic mirrors.
This sort of intuition is what leaves me expecting great things to follow, perhaps even daring to put their creativity in the same stream as (dare I say it) Thom Yorke and James Blake alike. I hope to see some impressive light displays to match the sound in the coming tour of ‘How to be a Human Being’ in the coming months, but for now indulge yourself in 11 tracks of style and innovation!