Enter the Slasher House is immediately different from Avey Tare’s solo debut, 2010’s Down There. That one was a personal exorcism for the Animal Collective member, whereas Enter the Slasher House is the work owes a lot to its other members, Angel Deedorian (of Dirty Projectors fame) and Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail and Dan Deacon fame). Hell, I’d say that the latter is the most important member of Enter the Slasher House, as Hyman often seems to be singlehandedly propelling songs to where they need to go.
Lead single “Little Fang” is a nice little nugget that’s more poppy than anything on Centipede Hz or Down There that completely belies the horror suggested by the title of Avey Tare’s new side project, the album title, or the album cover. The repeated “You’re something special” and “little fang” guarantee catchiness, the off-harmonies throughout guarantee weirdness, and the section starting at the 1:33 mark onwards until the chorus, where Avey Tare’s vocal melody plays call and response with indiscernible vocals, impressively manage both qualities. That’s all without mentioning the funky bassline, a trick we haven’t heard on any Animal Collective-related song. The greatest draw of the album.
The rest of the album? There are glimpses of delicious earcandies to be found. The jaunting drums and the melodic alarm of “A Sender” after its formless intro would probably make for a live spectacle. Avey Tare impressively teasing out a melody despite the wordy labyrinth of “Blind Babe” while on top of Hyman’s shoulders and the cascading synths makes it my second favorite cut. The choruses of “Strange Colores” are easily the album’s catchiest, although the drum sound sounds exactly the same as “Moonjock”, which is a little disheartening. Thankfully the aforementioned funky bassline makes its return throughout the album (see: “Duplex Trip”, “Roses on the Window”, and “Your Card”). But these are still glimpses that you kind of have to look for whereas “Little Fang” presented them to you. Case in point: a brief synth melody leads into the hook of “That It Won’t Grow”, but it’s disposed as soon as its job is done rather than expanded upon, despite being the most melodic soundbite of the entire song.
Ultimately then, Enter the Slasher House suffers the same problem as Centipede Hz. Each song is fried in a large vat of production grease and because everything is in such excess (the unfortunate mixing on the drums, the reverb, the extra blips and bloops that end up sounding like blahs), it’s an exhausting listen to get to the end. And because of that, though Avey Tare tells Pitchfork that the inspirational well for Enter the Slasher House comes from garage rock and novelty pop songs from the ‘60s, he’s unable to replicate either successfully. Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” (that he namedrops in that article) could teach any of these songs the important lesson of less is more, and though Avey Tare sometimes distorts his voice in the same manner as Jerry Samuels did on that one, you get the feeling it was to compensate for the lack of melody (see: “Modern Days E”) than anything else.
Although I wouldn’t label any of their output in the new decade through Animal Collective or solo projects or offshoots such as this as outright failures, it’s disheartening to see a band that created some of the best and different works of the naughties struggle to create something that passes for more than just passing weirdness. Here’s hoping Panda Bear’s solo album later this year fares better.