Perfect Pop Records

Perfect Pop Records

POP61 – Strange Glue

Je Suis Animal: Self-Taught Magic From A Book

Written By: Aidan Williamson
01st December 2008 at 10:59 GMT

A photograph cares nothing for context. Whatever may prelude or follow its split-second snapshot: it’s immaterial. That happy family photo from Omagh on August 15, 1998. Those boxing day photos of the beach in Sumatra, Indonesia during your 2004 holiday.

The inspiration of Je Suis Animal is such a snapshot of time. The year is 1995 and British band Lush are just making the transition from shoegaze supremos to britpop darlings. Oslo’s Je Suis Animal take aim, right click, and select ‘Save As’.

The garrisoned drumkit, the breathy, angelic vocals of Elin Grimstad the vast array of bizarre shrills and shrieks which adorn the sidelines. Welcome to the world of shoegaze-pop. These days any amateur can record an album in the studio; so to really impress, you have to take your songs somewhere special: a log cabin, the fortress of solitude, Grimsby, the sixth moon of Titan, or in Je Suis Animal’s case: remote community hall deep in the woodlands of Norway. The light, breezy echoes are immediately apparent and shroud the entire album in a tinglingly-warm coat of fuzz and reverb.

Too many times though Self-Taught Magic From A Book reclines backwards onto its laurels. So content with its charms, there is little effort between the three songs which follow album opener Secret Place to properly engage the listener. When the lullaby lyrics (“Goodnight, goodnight/Sleep tight, sleep tight/When I look at you I fall in love with you.“) of Rousseau World begin with its vaguely Pixies-esque guitar (think Where Is My Mind? after seventeen drinks) all is close to forgiven. Grimstad continues to impress, first invoking the essence of Morrissey before casting it asunder in favour of drawling vocalisations.

Its twee charms are carried over into the simplistic, yet thoroughly bewitching Hotel Electrique which could quite easily give birth to Club Tropicana at any moment it wishes. The faltering begins once more after this moment. Indoors Out Of Doors seeks to embody a haunted glow and just about manages ‘modified BBC test card’. Faltering leads to stumbling as the band embrace an increasingly immature tone from Good to Me through to Amundsen. When the nursery-school hijinx subside, only pedestrian music remains for the duration of the album. That is, until the sublime Sparkle Spit.

Armed with the spangled tone of a interminable rhythm guitar, the balance is once more restored to the galaxy as the pounding, incessant drum-beat swiftly carries the song to its conclusion.

While the exposure, the aperture, the colour-balance and the focus are all but perfect in the photograph that is Je Suis Animal, all those things are of little use if you happen to be prone to taking the odd picture of a brick-wall.

Rating:  6 / 10

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