Release Date: Feb 28, 2012
Record label: Secret City Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Montreal’s Plants and Animals first peeked out of their nest with 2008’s Parc Avenue, an album charmingly overstocked with instrumentation that managed to capture the eclectic feel of the group’s adopted hometown. The End of That largely eschews that record’s excesses; there are no Québécoise cheerleaders or harp arrangements here, only cross-legged acoustic jams and staggering electric anthems that narrowly avoid collapsing under their own weight. Even at their most ornate, Plants and Animals have always been a power trio at their core.
After the promising eclecticism of their debut Parc Avenue and the sexy grooves of La La Land, Plants and Animals’ third full-length, The End of That finds this trio of Canucks sounding more grown-up and mellowed out. The shape-shifting tracks, nods to psychedelia and lush symphonic arrangements of their earlier work take a backseat on this record to hints of folk (“HC” and the gorgeous “Before”), Americana (“The End of That”) and rootsy rock ‘n’ roll. Singer Warren Spicer tosses off lyrics like, “We’re just typical people / we’re hoping to be friends / and do cool stuff / and be equal” with such casual confidence that they don’t sound lazy or overly simple so much as they sound true.
Warren Spicer got his heart broke. Shattered, debilitated, split right down the middle, crushed to the point where you can’t stop talking about it, wallowing in pain because there’s seemingly nothing else to do but wallow in pain. He’s a grown-up, and grown-up problems seem to be whispering from the walls. The other records in the Plants and Animals suite certainly spouted heaviness, but never existential angst.
Through two albums, Canadian rock outfit Plants and Animals have offered us heavily orchestrated, maximalist rock-pop. Parc Avenue, their breakthrough album, was an impressive and lively set of dramatic rock songs that recalled the dust of Neil Young and the resonant, shifting compositions of Arcade Fire’s first record. Plants and Animals’ sophomore effort, La La Land, was just as layered but sounded leaner, more straightforward, and though the songs still worked, the record sounded stuck, like it was still hidden in the shadow of its predecessor.
On their third album, Montreal classic rock revisionists Plants and Animals tone down their jammy tendencies to focus on the songs, which makes it their most accessible recording yet. The newfound restraint also drains the energy, though given how much of the lyrics deal with watching your friends grow up and settle down, the weariness seems appropriate. The End Of That is deliberately under-produced, attempting a live-off-the-floor feel.
Over its last two albums, Montréal trio Plants and Animals grew from lush, folk-inspired songwriters to more experimental, rock 'n' roll animals. For as light, airy, and nuanced as 2008's Parc Avenue was, 2010's La La Land was in equal measure in your face and electrified. Plants and Animals' latest album largely splits the difference between those two albums.
No matter where Plants and Animals went on their first two LPs, they always came bearing good vibes: If Arcade Fire had set out to make Barbecue instead of Funeral, it might've sounded like the trio's 2008 debut, Parc Avenue, perhaps the last hurrah of shambling, collectivist Canadian indie rock as we came to know it last decade. And while follow-up La La Land traded the requisite Montreal orchestration for Hollywood namedrops ("Tom Cruz", "American Idol", "Kon Tiki"), there was a still a Lebowski-like insouciance to it, a projection from a place where beards and beer flowed equally free. Point being I never thought that whether Plants and Animals were good dudes was up for debate, but while The End of That doesn't go too far beyond the La La Land DMZ between indie folk and jam-band, they've got some dark and heavy shit on their minds this time out-- they attempt to take unsparing inventory, offer sincere amends, and confront the responsibilities of adulthood.
Montreal’s Plants and Animals attracted ears in 2008 with its breakout full-length, Parc Avenue, a soaring collection of reactive songs that popped and spilled over into crashing waves of orchestral arrangements. Now, two albums later, the trio has reached an even-keeled state, shed the drama, and pared themselves down to gentle acoustics and naked, electric instrumentation. Lyrically, they’re maturing, looking around clear-eyed and grappling with the insecurities of adulthood brought on by friends’ marriages and babies, the hopelessness of a stagnating relationship, and the existential weariness of trying to drag yourself out of a personal hole.
On their La La Land outing, for better or worse, Plants and Animals toned down the folk elements that made debut Parc Avenue so compelling. Their third full-length release finds the Montreal trio cranking up the indie, revisiting acoustic strings and opting for a more live-off-the-floor sound. Whether it's meant to raise the delirium of a barn-burning rock anthem or to add a slow-burning touch to a ballad, The End of That is all about hook-laden, blistering guitar wails.