“Make a tricky record,” Warren Spicer once said, “and then spend the next year learning how to play it live.” He co-founded Plants and Animals, a Montreal indie trio, and, yes, their music is tricky. They spent two years making 2008’s Parc Avenue and it’s got a 12-piece choir, just to name some of the added attractions. It sounds like Abbey Road, but streamlined for possible use behind slick television commercials for iPads or soft drinks or in the soundtrack of Grey’s Anatomy. They describe their music as “folk-jazz-digital-improv.”
But in music-industry shorthand, the rich complexity of Plants and Animals is reduced to post-classic indie rock. This is about as enlightening as calling Van Halen post-screamo power metal. You come to the place where words fail or the music defies description. In truth, I think that at one time Plants and Animals wanted to be a full-blown jam band. But they ditched that plan and moved on to their current multi-layered soundscapes when the whole jam-band movement fizzled out and left a generation of neo-hippies staring at their feet.
Plants and Animals began with guitarist Warren Spicer and drummer Matthew Woodley. They’d been playing music together since they were 12, for over a decade. They met their third band member, bassist/guitarist Nicolas Basque, at Montreal’s Concordia University. P&A gained a following by putting on large, high-energy live shows. But Plants and Animals as a name is hard to take seriously, like The The or Nickelback or Matchbox 20. They titled their 2010 CD La La Land, fitting for a band that once dressed up like fairies for a promo shoot. Cheesy fad-band or super-creative dedicated career musicians? Too hard to call. But as Dick Clark once said (I paraphrase), “If it’s got a beat, and you can dance to it, that’s all that matters.”
River City also performs.
PLANTS AND ANIMALS: The Casbah, Monday, May 21, 8 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10.