At first glance, it’s obvious that Bend Sinister’s new album Animals will go in some interesting directions. The cover shows the band in a ’70s-era rumpus room filled with kitschy decorations and taxidermied animals — a polar bear head adorns one of the keyboards and there are wolfskin rugs and foxes wearing sunglasses. And that’s saying nothing of guitarist Joseph Blood’s shoeless, long pyjama shirt and toque ensemble. No one can accuse Bend Sinister — or this record — of being boring.
The album opens with “Best Of You,” an ambitious eight-minute epic that would feel at home on the B-side of any Queen record as it evolves from a full-on rock opera to a delicate piano finish. The energy ramps up again with “Fancy Pants,” a radio friendly single filled with peppy trumpets and catchy lyrics. The highlight of the album “Teacher” falls somewhere in between the two as it opens with an impressive and lengthy organ solo before turning the energy up to 11 with infectiously fun lyrics and punchy guitar.
The tempo of the album unexpectedly shifts with the final track “It Will Never End” and has you wondering where the energy from the previous tracks went — until it suddenly breaks into a bizarrely placed, yet incredibly epic synth and guitar crescendo.
Animals is a shape-shifting album that refuses to stick to one genre as it alternates between complex solos and sing-along pop. It’s an enjoyable album, but it’s hard to know what to make of it. That being said, these Vancouverites know how to rock as the “no acoustic guitars were used in the making of this record” note attests to.
You can catch them live at the Ship & Anchor on April 6.