This Town Needs Guns' 2008 album, "Animals" stands as a monument for fans of Progressive Rock, Math Rock and Emo alike. Showcasing a seamless blend of catchy melodies, emotional vocal performances, and poetic lyricism, this acoustic version of "Animals" revisits an old Flame still burning in many people's hearts. Now as "TTNG," the band have released several albums with new lead singer Henry "Hank" Tremain formerly of the band Pennines.
Today October 5th, 2018, marks the day the U.K. group releases the re-imagined version of "Animals" through Sargent House Records. Featuring several guest collaborations including Yvette Young (Covet), Nate Kinsella (American Football), The Kraken Quartet from Austin, TX on percussion & The Mivos Quartet on strings, this album boasts a top tier class of musicianship. On the 13-track album, returning vocalist Stuart Smith delivers a compelling performance that stays true to the original version of the record while new creative arrangements add a unique dynamic that should prove more than favorable for fans of TTNG and fans of acoustic music alike.
On "Chinchilla," the record starts with the sound of Tim Collis’ distinguished finger style playing. He is known for his use of complex compound time signatures, metric modulation and also for a fluid combination of tapping and finger style techniques. The first riff showcases this perfectly, as the catchy phrasing and Smith’s soaring vocals nearly mask the repeating time signature change between 11/4 and 13/4. Around 3:40, the song shifts to display the more straightforward side of TTNG, switching to a slow 4/4 and employing sing-along vocal melodies to gracefully end the song. The usage of keyboard percussion adds a colorful flavor to the song, injecting new life into this stripped- down version of the original classic.
"Baboon" begins with a shining example of Tim Collis’ signature blend of finger-style playing underneath Stu Smith’s somber vocal delivery. As the track develops innovative percussion ideas provided by The Kraken Quartet bring to light a tribal-like flair through continuously changing time signatures amidst displaced acoustic guitar riffs.
Beginning with just acoustic guitar and vocals,
"Lemur" stays true to the vocal delivery of the original version while this arrangement contributes to a more exposed feel all throughout. Smith utilizes catchy phrases and patterns before the end where one of Tim Collis’ trademark syncopated finger-style guitar licks keep the listener at just the right distance with it's off-kilter tones.
Featuring a lush string accompaniment by The Mivos Quartet, in lieu of the bombastic drums in the original version, "Badger" brings forth an intensely vulnerable and emotional side of the band. The strings add color and vibrancy to the track, accentuating a hopeful vocal performance and continuing to add poly-rhythmic chords and pads on top of a driving arpeggiated finger- style acoustic guitar which fills up the atmosphere.
"Quetzal" makes use of modulating reverse effects as well as acoustic guitar for a smooth transitional interlude.
On "Panda," Stuart Smith’s abrasive vocal performance stands in even more stark contrast than in the original version, with an accompaniment of only acoustic guitar and melodic/rhythmic percussion. The vulnerability of the vocal delivery and lyrics are amplified by the sparse arrangement, punctuated by a trumpet choir starting at 1:42 to add a new and unique voice which further drives the track. The addition of keyboards as well as the trumpets contribute to a brazen combination of instruments and timbres, one of the main elements that sets this record apart from the original.
As the single instrumental track, "Elk" starts by trading off between a lyrical, melancholic yet hopeful sounding trumpet solo and a twisting acoustic guitar riff seamlessly alternating between 10/4 and 11/4. The B section of the song is more stripped down than the original, with a lush horn choir instead of the driving drums and bass of the original, relying instead on the acoustic guitar to drive the song forward. Ending with the traditional horn melody of the original, this version goes a step further and adds a recap of the B section melody on top, as well as extensive harmonic content to truly take the original a step further.
With "Pig," Smith’s vocal delivery seamlessly shifts from smooth to abrasive over Tim Collis’ combination of double stops and slides, using delicate poly-rhythmic patterns to effortlessly prove energy underneath the rhythmic keyboard percussion.
On "Gibbon," Chris Collis’ precise rhythmic percussion blends perfectly with the syncopated acoustic guitar line underneath a soaring and emotional vocal delivery. Once again, keyboard percussion adds a new perspective, punctuating and then pulsing on top of smooth vocals and tribal percussion rhythms. Beginning around 3:40, melodic vibraphone adds a new element to the 3:2 poly-rhythm carried out by the guitars. The track ends with a prime example of Smith’s soaring and emotional vocal delivery and cryptic, symbolic lyrics.
Featuring orchestral vibes "Dog," boasts pulsating violin and cello which add rhythmic and melodic punctuation to the flowing arpeggiated acoustic guitar lines, adding twinkly noodling and pizzicato ostinatos throughout. This track is one of the most stripped down on the album, but the complex string layers add a new harmonic dimension to the signature TTNG sound.
"Crocodile" utilizes a very exposed arrangement that further amplifies the vulnerable nature of the lyrics and vocal delivery. Beginning with solo piano by Yvette Young providing a pulsing yet melodic backing along with acoustic guitar underneath some of Smith’s most beautiful and emotional lyrics, this song is one of my favorites. Most notably the lyrics which speak to me are “Promise I will not see out this night without comforting and holding you. Your eyes alight never shined so bright. For just one second, I’m lost in you.”
On "Rabbit," Tim Collis’ rhythmic finger-style playing adds a layer of complexity underneath a multi-layered string arrangement providing Smith’s smooth delivery and cryptic use of lyrical imagery a voice with a foundation. A pulsating and haunting string arrangement extends the track, providing new and previously unheard levels of warmth..
On “Zebra”, the emotive and vulnerable vocals and lyrics are the standout element of this succinct final track. Haunting string sustains play out the final moments of the album, leaving the listener wanting more.
Overall, “Animals Acoustic” does exactly what it’s supposed to, staying true to the original while providing a fresh and interesting take on the iconic record. A truly engaging listen, this album stands up to it’s predecessor through striking arrangements, innovative guitar work, beautiful vocal melodies, and incredibly fluid time signature changes. -Nathaniel S. For fans of Confluence, Colour, Tangled Hair.
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