Review: Animal Kingdom – signs and wonders

I reviewed this on Amazon and called it “Quirky, mystical and tuneful”. It’s the debut album from a promising London band, though this was recorded in Seattle. Animal Kingdom has been quietly building a fan base, playing support to the likes of Snow Patrol as well as their own club gigs.

The band has already released two singles, both excellent: the affecting, ethereal Chalk Stars, and the pulsating Tin Man, a love song for the electronic age. Both songs feature here, along with the new single Signs and Wonders which is not quite the equal of the first two, but still a catchy number.

What you get is Richard Sauberlich’s delicate, keening vocals; lyrics which are quirky and mystical, and music that is pacey and tuneful. The band cite a broad range of influences from Arcade Fire, to Dylan, to the Cure, to Massive Attack, all of which can be heard in snatches here and there.

As you might expect from an album called Signs and Wonders, there’s plenty of biblical imagery: Two by Two (think Noah’s Ark), Walls of Jericho, Mephistopheles, and more.

It all passes pleasantly enough, and that in a way is the problem. Could there be a tension between the band’s darker instincts and its pursuit of that elusive mass market? At times this CD is just a bit too pretty and poppy. By contrast, my favourite track is the swirling Mephistopheles, declaimed rather than sung, and featuring disturbing, evocative imagery against a pounding but delicate keyboard background.

Not perfect then; but Signs and Wonders is well worth it for its best moments, which are superb. Catch Animal Kingdom live if you can, and watch this space.

Animal Kingdom is Richard Sauberlich (vocals, guitar, piano), Wayne Yardley (guitar), Hamish Crombie (bass) and Geoff Lea (drums).