WHITFIELD CRANE MAKES ANOTHER ANIMAL LESS ANNOYING THAN IT SHOULD BE
Allow me to be 110% honest up-front: the prospect of reviewing the self-titled debut by Another Animal, the latest supergroup to ostensibly consist of a well known band with a new singer, was not all that tantalizing to me, as, in this case, four of the five members of the group are current or former members of Godsmack, who pretty much epitomize everything I hated about the mainstream metal scene that dominated the charts during the late 90s and early aughties. And yet, the presence of the band’s fifth and final member, vocalist Whitfield Crane – formerly of Life of Agony, Medication, and, most famously, Ugly Kid Joe – more than piqued my curiosity, given that I make it a point to listen to UKJ’s America’s Least Wanted and Menace to Sobriety at least once a year.
So I listened to this thing – twice, actually, in the interest of giving it a fair shot – and here’s the verdict, in a nutshell: thanks in no small part to the power of Crane’s pipes, Another Animal are considerably less annoying that one might expect, if still fairly generic and forgettable.
Look: there’s only so much any singer could’ve done with the material here, given that it is apparently all left-overs from IV, the most recent of studio albums recorded by Godsmack (for the sake of professionalism, I’ll refrain from referring to them by the moniker we usually use for them on this site). This is a bunch of dudes that are so enamored of Alice in Chains that they used one of that group’s song titles for their own band name, and so, like Hurt’s Volume 1, most of this album sounds like it was recorded during grunge’s mid-90s heyday and is only just seeing the light of day now.
But Crane’s vocals have considerably more range and power than anything Godsmack leader Sully Erna has ever recorded; furthermore, while Erna seems content to try and sound exactly like Layne Staley but a few octaves lower (there’s that lack of range again!), Crane, like current AIC frontman William DuVall, knows better than to attempt to imitate the inimitable, and trusts that his own soulful style will soar above the music. And so the best songs here, while still distinctly of the Jar of Flies-wanna be variety (check out that harmonizing – classic Staley and Cantrell), are catchy almost in spite of themselves: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “Broken Again” and “Left Behind” stuck in my head for several hours after giving this disc a spin, and the simple, driving riff that fuels “Amend” is at least as good as anything on Ozzy’s Black Rain (if Erna sang it, the video would surely have him riding a hog down the highway for no apparent reason other than to prove what a tough guy he is; presumably, Crane has a little more class).
Still, there are places where promising pop-metal confections start off strong and then go virtually nowhere. “Before the Fall,” for example, might be as good as the aforementioned “Amend” if it had a stronger hook, but it doesn’t feature any musical equivalents of peaks and valleys – it’s just one long plateau, lacking the infusion of sudden energy necessary for a great rock anthem. And while the brief, bluegrassy, almost Black Crowes-esque “Interlude” illustrates that this band may have some capabilities beyond what they’ve shown us in the past, the mere fact that they chose not to stretch it into a full song speaks to their unwillingness to branch out a little from their signature sound (I won’t speculate as to why that might be).
At the end of the day, something tells me that we may be hearing music from Another Animal in a variety of Hollywood movie trailers sometime real soon. For some fans, that fact may make this band a worthy endeavor. Personally, though, it just makes me wish that Whitfield Crane would hook up with a better band and make a record more deserving of our attention.
(two and out of five horns)