“Are these guys British? I can tell by their accents,” my friend astutely pointed out as we hovered amidst a large Wednesday night crowd to partake in Animal Kingdom’s first ever set in New York City last night at Mercury Lounge. The north-London trio could barely keep the smiles off of their faces as an overwhelming response from the crowd took them by surprise. There was little movement on stage and not much conversation, but when they did decide to talk, some real conversational gems made them all the more endearing.
“We didn’t know what to pack, so we brought summer and winter clothes,” noted bassist Hamish Crombie as he pointed to lead vocalist and guitarist Richard Sauberlich wearing what looked like a womens short-sleeved, bright blue blouse with orange floral bursts all over it, and then to himself, showing off his lumberjack-esque plaid flannel shirt and hat.
They opened with a couple of “old ones” from their 2009 release Signs And Wonders, and then went full tilt into playing tracks from their new album The Looking Away. Sauberlich has one of those multi-purpose voices, with a huge range and the vocal strength to back it up in any octave of your choice. There is a restraint there, though, that keeps it sounding clean and fresh, while being backed by a simple arrangement of guitar, drums and bass, with the occasional electronic blip here and there. At times, there was an incredible similarity in sound to late period Silverchair, with Animal Kingdom taking a page right out of the Daniel Johns handbook, mixing falsetto vocals and rock choruses in songs like “Get Away With It” and “The Wave.”
“Skipping Disc” has the potential to be a wonderfully likable ballad, and works really well live, but as the weird boss-a-nova synth chorus pushes in, it sort of throws off the cute, love-sick feel to the song. The chorus didn’t seem to faze anyone else, however, as it was just a warm up before the song that everyone came to hear. “Strange Attractor” is to Animal Kingdom what “Sweet Disposition” is to the Temper Trap. In a similar style, Sauberlich eases into the track with his breathy falsetto vocals, and then injects the catchy guitar-laden chorus into the mix. It is destined to be one of those songs that will be the closer at every show from now until the end of Animal Kingdom’s career, and by the looks of things, everyone involved seems pretty ok with that.