Margot and the Nuclear So and So's: Not Animal

Not Animal isn't exactly what the band wants it to be, but it is an interesting record in the musical evolution of the group and it does have a few thoroughly gorgeous, charming pieces of chamber pop.

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

Not Animal

Label: Sony BMG Music Entertainment
US Release Date: 2008-10-07
UK Release Date: Available as import

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's latest release came out of something of a disagreement with their record label, which, it seems, is getting at least as much press as the music itself. Here's the short version of events. After making the leap to a major label, the band presented its desired track listing for the new album. Executives at Epic wanted something a bit more commercial. The compromise, if it can be called that, is that the band's vision, Animal!, is now available only on vinyl and as a digital release, while the record company version Not Animal is available in CD and digital formats.

Not Animal opens with "A Children's Crusade on Acid," a slightly warped and mournful anti-social commentary flowing over far-away feedback, a dirge for "such uncertain times." This song sets a sullen tone for the entire disc, on which Richard Edwards outdoes his peers in the realm of dramatic lyrics. He certainly has a mind for the melancholy, whether it's the disturbing "Evelyn, your spine cracks like a wineglass" and "I want to gouge out your eyes / Splinter your spine" of "The Shivers (I've Got 'Em)," or the more poetically lovelorn phrases of "Broadripple Is Burning":

And I'm wasted

You can taste it

Don't look at me that way

'Cause I'll be hanging from a rope

I'll be hanging from a rope

And if my woman was a fire

She'd burn out before I wake

And be replaced by pints of whiskey

Cigarettes and outer space

Not Animal is not all black bile lyrics, lone lonely-boy voice and understated instrumentation. "As Tall as Cliffs" features loose, ramshackle elements of percussion beneath a harmonica, buoyant acoustic strumming, and the lovely harmonies of Emily Watkins. Andy Fry's guitar winds around Edwards' voice as he sings of telling tall tales and taking to the streets while working the whole band into an intensity that might even be called joyous. In fact, the second half of this collection holds the bulk of the better material. "Real Naked Girls" is a lovely ballad swelling with strings and sprinkled with the sound of toy keyboards. "Pages Written on a Wall," with its cinematic guitar riffs and suspenseful, high-tension horns is by far the most arresting song here, while album closer "Hip Hip Hooray" is a thoroughly gorgeous, charming piece of chamber pop with a Brian Wilson-esque bit of layered vocal lushness at its center.

Not Animal isn't exactly what Margot and the Nuclear So and So's would want it to be. It's probably not quite what many fans would like, either. It might be considered a terminal node on the branch between The Dust of Retreat and the band's next creation, especially when sitting side-by-side with the version preferred by its creators. But it is an interesting record—in every sense of the word—in the musical evolution of the group.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.