Artist: Glass Animals
Label: Polydor Records
Genre: Indie pop
Released: 07 August 2020
“You float in the pool where the soundtrack is canned
You go ask your questions like, "What makes a man?"
Oh, it's 2020, so it's time to change that
So you go make an album and call it Dreamland”
Glass Animals latest album “Dreamland” is the definition of a mixed bag. While some of it’s great, it never really maintains this standard long enough to develop into a solid album. It’s never consistently bad either, but unfortunately the jarring shifts in quality throughout hugely diminish “Dreamland’s” replay value. And while it might seem as an attempt at a concept album, with multiple ‘home movie’ interludes as well as reprisals between tracks, this is definitely a record that works better if you throw its best moments in a playlist and disregard the rest.
Most of “Dreamland” is made up of pretty safe, easy-listening trap pop music. There are even some occasional excellent moments on here, such as the tracks ‘Your Love (déjà vu)’ and ‘Tokyo Drifting’; with the latter including an explosive feature from Denzel Curry which blends extremely well with the song’s aesthetic. There’s also the great slow-burner ‘Its All So Incredibly Loud’, which adds some much-needed variety to “Dreamland’s” fairly repetitive sound, using a more ambient and spacey sound to create a beautiful and well-developed track. But then there are also some songs here which are downright bad. And for some reason they seem to always end up squeezing themselves in between the standout moments, ultimately leaving the entire record as a confusing and jarring mess. ‘Melon and the Coconut’ and ‘Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth’ are both wedged awkwardly between the aforementioned highlights of the album, and make what could have been an extremely strong midpoint in the record instead a stilted listening experience. And in these weakest moments, what mainly hurts the album are its lyrics.
“So, so, so unusual
You taste like surfing videos
I'm going to read your mind
Big dicks and big ol' titties on the sly”
This is a line from ‘Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth’, and somehow, it’s even more difficult to listen to than it is to read. A lot of the album uses very strange, surrealist imagery in its lyrics, which is fine for the most part, and feeds into the ‘dreamlike’ aesthetic that the band seems to be going for. At times this works quite well, and complements the vibrant, fruity feel of the music. But sometimes (such as in ‘Waterfalls…’) instead of coming across as surreal or abstract, it’s just painfully cringeworthy. On the other hand, ‘Domestic Bliss’ is one of the more grounded moments on the album, discussing domestic violence through a dialogue between an abuse victim and their pleading friend. It’s a decent sounding song, but doesn’t necessarily handle the topic at hand incredibly well, sounding as if it’s implying it was the victim’s decision to be compliant and remain with their abuser. Although it’s a subject that should definitely be explored far more than it is, and their heart was most likely in the right place, I don’t think the message was necessarily delivered as it was intended. However apart from this, “Dreamland’s” lyrical content is fairly innocuous, usually exploring themes of love and nostalgia.
“Why'd you put up with that shit?
Why'd you go back for that kiss?
Maybe it tastes like him when you've got tears on your lips
Why'd you put up with that shit?”
There are some various other decent moments on the album, but a fair amount of “Dreamland” does end up coming across as fairly unmemorable. On top of this, there are a few short interludes which don’t particularly serve the album very well, instead simply further disrupting its flow. Only one of them, ‘((home movie: rockets))’, offers any actual musical addition, and even it would have benefitted to have been cut. If “Dreamland” had been shaved down to a much leaner 7-track EP, discarding its worst moments, I think there really could have been a decent record here. But unfortunately, similarly to The 1975’s latest album “Notes on a Conditional Form”, “Dreamland” seems to have its heart set on delivering as a pseudo-concept-album, when it really works far better as a collection of singles.
While the album concludes with the decent ‘Helium’, which includes a nice reprisal of the first track towards the end, it still doesn’t manage to feel as if it stuck the landing. There’s simply too much of “Dreamland” that doesn’t work, which is a shame considering that there are a handful of great tracks here. This is a pretty disappointing listen, and although there’s a solid album in here somewhere, you might have to do some serious culling to find it.
“I can feel your love
Your temporary touch
It's a hit and run
You go back there when you're done”
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 17/08/20