The Gods Themselves have produced three albums since their self-titled 2014 debut and the latest, Be My Animal, builds on the reputation fostered by the first two. It also busies itself reaffirming the character of a trio that has captured the imagination of many. The nature of the band’s music means that reactions are likely to be sharply divided – frankly put, you’ll either love or hate this band and middle ground will be hard to come by. They have an uncompromising approach that makes no apologies for upending listener’s potential expectations about what popular songs are supposed to do and, while they are clearly capable of entertaining many, there’s a strong air here of a band with ambitions much bigger than just making people move. It’s impossible to neatly sum up their influences. Many different styles color this album’s nine songs, but there’s an unifying fearlessness about the music that’s impossible to deny.
The album’s first song, “Be My Animal”, begins with a jolt. It isn’t the customary jolt derived from instruments announcing themselves in an omnipresent way. Instead, it’s the understatement and sheer oddity of the texture that captures listener’s attention. Vocalist and guitarist Astra Elane begins the song with some spoken word, light electronic treatment affecting her voice, before the song properly begins. Dustin Patterson’s baritone guitar and Collin O’Meara’s drumming occupies much of the initial instrumental space. Elane’s powerful and direct guitar work rises in prominence as the song nears its cacophonous conclusion. Patterson’s vocals are heard for the first time on “Tech Boys”, a distinctly New Wave influenced tune with a great marching feel further colored and fleshed out by Patterson and Astra’s compositional approach to the guitars. The song gathers sonic steam as it progresses, in a manner similar to the opener, and the two guitarists bring the song to another aggressive ending.
Elane’s vocals return on the track “So Hot”, a fun bit of satire with a good stomping beat and more of the dueling guitar work. Thankfully, The Gods Themselves are a band who prefers some light zigzagging over going in a straight line and there’s some textural variations in this track guaranteed to catch your ear. Their satirical side gets another workout on the track “COOL”, once more featuring Elane’s vocals, and this dismissive look at the shallowness of tastemakers and celebrity culture gets a musical treatment worthy of its subject and Elane’s singing. The song “Love” begins with a strongly dreamlike ambiance and features Elane’s vocals before another ferocious tempo imposes itself and the band’s contrasting guitar start throwing down some jagged lines over top. Patterson and Elane share the singing duties here quite well. “Dance With Me” has a hard-edged New Wave sound and a relentless pulse that keeps on top of the listener throughout its duration. Be My Animal ends with the album’s lengthiest cut, “Alone”, a dynamic guitar exercise that strikes a number of different stylistic poses while remaining coherent throughout. It’s one of the band’s greatest achievements – they continue challenging expectations about melody and texture while continuing to make sense in some way. In the hands of lesser talents, this could sound like a hodgepodge of influences, but The Gods Themselves have a clear vision and the talent to bring it all together.