THEMED FEATURES: ANIMALS

Wild Beasts, The Kills, Test Icicles, Telstar Ponies, Sebadoh, Quasi, Psapp, Preston School Of Industry, Policecat, Mouse On Mars, Max Tundra, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Loose Fur, Lone Pigeon, Lightspeed Champion, Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, Four Tet, Bonnie Prince Billy With Harem Scarem and Alex Nielson, Bonde do Role, Benjy Ferree, Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective and (Smog) | 10/04/08

Image: The Animal Kingdom




There is going to bee a lot of cheap animal references and puns, so please bear with us (sorry).

People love animals it seems, apart from maybe the ones that could eat you and maybe mosquitoes and spiders of course, but most of them.

Though some people like them a little too much if you've ever seen Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog or heard of Siegfried and Roy or remember the unfortunate Steve Irwin.

However there's something universal in the appeal of watching wildlife. Like the splendid Planet Earth, listening to the husky, reassuring tones of David Attenborough as we watch in wonder and remind ourselves how savage and yet how beautiful the world can be.

"From the early recordings of Blues artists like Skip James and Mississippi James Hurt crying out for a good meal, in songs like 'Catfish Blues', 'C-H-I-C-K-E-N'..."

Animals have been the subject for 1000s of songs in popular music. From the early recordings of Blues artists like Skip James and Mississippi James Hurt crying out for a good meal, in songs like 'Catfish Blues', 'C-H-I-C-K-E-N'. In the rock n' roll era, 'the kids' used to imitate as an excuse to flirt and dance along to moves like The Jitterbug, The Fly, The Monkey all providing context for their animal impulses along with similar inspiration from the Jukebox, whether it be from Buddy Holly and the Crickets or Elvis Presley screaming "You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog".

From then on out, there’s been many different takes on our animal friends from the boyish, inquisitive charm of Jonathan Richman's 'Buzz, Buzz, Buzz' to the abstract and wild pièce de résistance of Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones. As for band names, forget about it. Everyone from the fab four to Howlin' Wolf, the Beastie Boys, Snoop Doggy Dog, Dinosaur Jr, Cat Power, Super Furry Animals, Deerhoof, Artic Monkeys and loads more have all taken inspiration from the Animal Kingdom.

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

This relationship has taken some disturbing turns though, if you've ever heard the squeaky sentiment of young Michael
Jackson’s ode to his pet rat 'Ben', or seen what surely must be (Unless you know otherwise?) one of the best Worst Album
Covers of all time, the Dominic Frontiere's Mighty Accordion Band - They Said it Couldn't Be Done! Maybe there was a reason for that.

Further a field in the jungle (song) book though you'll find 'Ant Music', a 'Fox in the Snow', a 'Black Eyed Dog', Pet Sounds, Monkey's Going to Heaven, a 'White Rabbit', 'Wild Horses', Doves crying and more – the list goes on and on.

If there's any further doubt of this animal behaviour, check out some of the wild songs and album titles in the Domino
soundscape. Whether it's Smog declaring – 'I Break Horses' off the tempestuous Accumulation: None or the carnal delight and
visual imagery of Magnetic Fields insisting 'Lets Pretend We’re Bunny Rabbits' or 'Acting Like A Chicken With It’s Head Cut Off', (they've even got a song called 'Zebra') off the heroic pop utopia - 69 Love Songs. Test Icicles unleashed their poisonous 'Boa vs Python', there's Archie Bronson going 'Cuckoo' from the award winning Derdang Derdang, Steve Reid and Kieran Hebden bringing some sea food to the table with – 'The Squid' from Tongues and continuing the electro-marina tones of Four Tet – 'Turtle Turtle Up' from the joyous Everything Ecstatic.

'Insects' are placed under the musical microscope by Fridge with scurrying electronics and the pitter-patter of drums. 'The Vulture' hovers eerily with a haunting oboe in Clinic's – Walking With Thee, displaying an unusual swing-time side but proving again that they completely own a sound that even the likes of Arcade Fire look up to.

One man never afraid to connect with his inner beast is Mr Will Oldham. From the sighing 'Cat's Blues' off Viva Last Blues or teams up with Tortoise or as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy empathising being a 'Sheep' in Ease Down The Road, "born in sheep's blood…was no longer wealthy, woolly", far from being a aimless follower though, he's more like a Superwolf in Sheep's clothing. The Kills scratch out a hip shaking new rock manifesto of black leather attitude in 'Cat Claw' from Keep On Your Mean Side, Lou Barlow's raw scathing poppy rant of Sebadoh's 'Freed Pig', the definitive reply to being kicked out of Dinosaur Jr before recently burying the hatchet, and re-strapping the axe with J Mascis.

Royal Trux fighting it out in the exhilarating 'Cats and Dogs', Stephen Malkmus requesting that we '(Do not feed the) Oyster' from Pig Lib, while his former Pavement mate respects the 'Whale Bones' as Preston School of Industry but as D.C Bergman would say; it's all about 'Pet Politics'.

Cover wise, Cats are very popular, featuring on all of Psapp's releases are the lovingly drawn characters, inspired by Galia’s pet - Puss Puss. On Smog's poetic and cold-blooded Knock Knock album, it looks like the poor moggy being struck by lightening. The Third Eye Foundation seems to have more respect with their holy looking feline on the brilliantly titled single – 'Fear of a Whack Planet'. Far from being chicken, the Lightspeed Champion shows his strength in holding up poultry, and party monsters Bonde Do Role show they're fond of a few feathers in their 'Solta O Frango' video. Elsewhere the dynamic duo of Quasi big up their 4 legged friends including a little Mole, a Pig and their awesome Featuring Birds album.

Lightspeed Champion Third Eye Foundation QuasiKnock Knock

There's James Yorkston and the Athletes celebrating The Year of the Leopard, and a guy on the cover of Jim O’Rourke's euphoric Eureka cover doing unspeakable things with a poor little bunny. But the prize for Animal Lover Numero Uno goes to Pram. Their Museum of Imaginary Animals album boasts a 'Mermaid Hotel' with 'Owl Service' no less and is full of crazy, childlike wonderment.

Well, there must be a lot of personal reasons for these animal tendences but basically we share a lot of basic characteristics in common with animals whether or not we’re dressing as them or we dress them up like us. In his fascinating book - Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals book, Dr John Gray suggests that humans are slightly delusional in our superiority to our fellow beasts. Animals too create music, ok so you're never going to hear any guitar solos from them but you've heard of Whale songs and Penguins singing mating songs? Maybe we're not that different after all. We get bored, we sleep, we fart, and in the words of The Kills, we all "cuss and fight" (from 'Black Rooster') like most animals too.

Besides the fact that we're all descended from apes (sorry any fundamentalist Christians out there, but it's a fairly convincing argument) but basically, if you're looking for inspiration and something that people will identify with, then what better than the natural world?

"Survival instincts too are very important, if you've ever been in caught up in a Slayer mosh pit you'll know exactly what we're talking about"

The natural melodies of the world are a continuous influence to musicians. Through observing and identifying animal behaviour, like with listening to great music, we learn more about ourselves and our own struggle with human nature for a higher understanding of the heart as well as the base, primal energy of shakin’'your booty.

Survival instincts too are very important, if you've ever been in caught up in a Slayer mosh pit, you'll know what we're talking about. Plus your favourite music can seem like a pet in some ways. In the everyday relationships of both, in little ways they improve your quality of life and feelings that you’ve always got good company. And some people (naming no names) feel the same way about their pet dog as they do about their vinyl collection, and it’s not as smelly. There are some important distinctions between Music and Animals though. For one there’s the different ways we express things, if a male Gazelle gets rejected by his female suitor you don't see him go off and compose a sensitive ballad to sooth his pain.

And some things will always be a mystery, like why do Penguins feet get cold or why do Dogs lick their testicles – maybe it's better that some things remain a mystery. At Domino, we like to think it's a living, breathing world of possibilities, celebrating the difference and uniqueness of music as well as what makes it personal and universal.

A place where Arctic Monkeys (not adverse to dressing up as animals themselves) and Franz Ferdinand tread new paths and connect with the masses, the Animal Collective are making lots of strange, exotic noises, there’s a Lone Pigeon in the trees, the wild mustangs of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Smog, Silver Jews and Steve Malkmus galloping across the prairie. There’s a Mouse on Mars, Loose Fur and even a Police Cat. From the Telstar Ponies to the new arrivals of Yo Majesty and Wild Beasts ready to attack your senses, there are sweet sounds coming out from every corner.

Ok, you might not like them all but isn’t the world a more interesting, richer place for their existence?