18 May 2008
Animals That Swim - Workshy
Year of issue: 1994
The career of Animals That Swim has already been dissected once on this blog many entries ago, so it’s probably pointless me picking their progress (or lack thereof) to pieces yet again. Let’s just begin by saying that “Workshy”, their debut album, is nothing like as wonderful as the work which followed it on “I Was The King”, but the flashes of brilliance contained within certainly make it worth a listen if you followed my advice and went away to purchase its younger brother.
Where “King” lilts and soars, “Workshy” fizzes, jabs and jangles, sounding like a quintessential “indie” disc. From the opening line of “I can’t wake up, the sky’s too dull to rouse me” and the clanging guitar lines which back it, it’s clearly not an album with its eyes on the top ten, even though the band have since said that they were always aiming to make popular records. Lyrically it’s also a less cheery prospect, but somehow still frequently hilarious, using wit to bring sparkle to the least likely subjects. The motor crash tale of “Pink Carnations” somehow manages to cover the subject with a chirpy, brassy backing, and even turns its attention to the absurdity of celebrity at the end when it mentions a famous hospital visiting “bald shithead with a teddy bear”. We can only speculate who this might have been.
Elsewhere, the astounding, marginally Go-Betweens-esque “Silent Film” paints an outer London suburban picture which manages to be both delicate and recognizable, and their interpretation of Charles Bukowski’s “Sway with Me” is also surprising in that, unlike most melodic interpretations of poetry, it works just as well as the rest of the material on the album and fits its jagged nature perfectly. Animals That Swim could almost be Bukowski’s British backing band, swaying with bleary eyes behind him.
“Workshy” should be approached with a bit more caution than perhaps most of their other work in that it’s an imperfect whole. “Susie’s Friends” and “Saint Francis”, for example, almost become dirges at points. However, considering you can download the lot for free below, who’s complaining? In this case, the record sellers on ebay and Amazon probably won’t be worried about some obscure blog cutting into their trade – I noticed that one major site was selling it for 68 cents recently. At that sort of retail price, you might want to get yourself a proper copy after downloading this, a vinyl rip which unfortunately doesn’t have mint sound. Sadly, this is the only copy I own at the moment.
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