While I’ve listened to Glass Animals’ How To Be A Human Being nearly a dozen times — I’m literally listening to it as I write this review — I can’t remember a single thing about it. It’s made absolutely no impression on me in any of those spins, despite trying headphones, sitting in front of the turntable, throwing a digital copy on my iPod and listening to it at work; it’s just mental vapor.
Glass Animals’ sophomore record paints them as just another in a slew of serviceable indie-pop acts inevitably set for bargain bin fodder within the next year — if not six months. How To Be A Human Being is pleasantly poppy, with a bit of a danceable groove underlying many of the tracks, but that’s about it.
Each successive song is just a variation on the same theme as the track which preceded it. Listening to “Youth,” I can’t really recall what made the first song, “Life Itself,” stand out, because it’s almost immediately supplanted by “Season 2 Episode 3,” as they’re all just a simple beat overlaid with falsetto vocals and some electronic flourishes to pretty it up. It’s Beck’s Midnite Vultures, stripped of its charming sense of danger, or the Dirty Projectors without the sense of experimentation.
Glass Animals are the Mowgli’s, are the Zutons, are the Fratellis, are the Wombats, et al, et cetera.
The chiptune elements, which pop up from time to time, seem forced, and even when Glass Animals slow things down for a cut like “Mama’s Gun,” it doesn’t come across as a welcome tempo change. If anything, it drags the song out ponderously, leaving me dreading the fact that I have to flip the record and listen to another side of this.
I will give credit where credit is due, however — the final cut, “Agnes,” is pretty fantastic. It makes up for the second side’s opening song, “Cane Shuga” (with its aggravating autotune), by aiming for something a little bigger than what the rest of How To Be A Human Being has been. The beat’s a little livelier, and the song more complex. It layers sounds and builds to something like an actual release, and then manages to subvert expectations when it utilizes a locked groove to let the end of the song go on, ad infinitum.
The vinyl sounds absolutely great. How To Be A Human Being works more in the upper registers, even with the beats, but it’s dynamic enough to thump a little bit. I cranked it one afternoon to listen to it from a different floor of my house, just to test it out, and it was crystal clear, even at neighbor annoyance levels.
The packaging is pretty slick. The gatefold sleeve has a die-cut window inside, which allows you to show one of two sides to the lyric sheet, which also folds out into a 24” x 24” poster of the album’s rear cover. The vinyl is a lovely coral blue.
Vinyl Me, Please has included an art print, which is an 8-bit version of the album cover, as done by Whoopi & Myk. It’s this perfect encapsulation of what Glass Animals are: a modern interpretation of ‘80s pop zeitgeist, done in a way which is familiar, but by no means could ever be considered challenging. There’s also a download card and a recipe for an album-inspired cocktail, which involves both chili power and a jalapeno.
“How To Be A Human Being” was available as Vinyl Me, Please’s September subscription record. You can sign up for the sub here. Their October release will be Beck’s “Odelay.” You can buy the standard edition of “How To Be A Human Being” from Harvest Records.