You can keep up with Nevermind Miami throughout September on beachedmiami.com/nevermind-miami.
This is the fourth installment of Nevermind Miami, a tribute to the generation-defining album Nirvana released 20 years ago, on September 24, 1991. To commemorate the occasion, we have asked local musicians to cover each of the 13 songs on the original release. We will be posting the covers throughout September in no particular order.
First up, we have Animal Tropical’s take on “Lounge Act”. Made up of Jose Castello (lead singer), Jarrett Hann (bass), Kris Pabon (guitar), and Jorge Rubiera (drums), Animal Tropical may well be the opposite of Nirvana, the cackle to its groan, the bongo to its floor tom, the dandyish bow to its destructive stage dive, the Miami to its Seattle. So anyone familiar with the band knows they’d never do the cover straight.
Built on a few chords and a relatively steady mood, “Lounge Act” is one of the simpler tracks on the frill-light Nevermind, but Animal Tropical turns it into a sonic journey that starts on a humid side street and ends up in the Gravitron by way of a smoky lounge and a skanking punk pit. (Trust me: You will have exactly this experience.) It’s a wild, deconstructed departure from the original that plays playfully on the song’s sarcastic title. Listen for yourself, and then check out Animal Tropical’s Facebook page to hear more of their music.
And now there are these three Animal Tropical videos from the B Tapes blog. In the videos, Rubiera (percussion, vocals), Jose Castello (guitar, piano, vocals), and Jarrett Hann (bass, vocals) perform three unreleased songs and a cover, and the long-time friends’ innate musicality comes through in spades. You’ve got Castello trading in a Spanish guitar for piano mid-song, Hann grooving on the bass from one key to the next, and Rubiera keeping time on maracas and a helm.
You’ve also got a full helping of Castello the Cultured Dandy, which is what put me off about Animal Tropical in the first place (despite my enjoyment of Kevin Barnes’ similar persona on Of Montreal records). But Castello raises his brow unapologetically high and, you know, I think I’m starting to give in to the charm of unabashed snootiness. I like these songs a lot actually, in part because of how much fun the trio is having playing together. I’m not sure how the meowing factors into my slow conversion. I’m not sure I want to know. I am sure, however, that if anyone was born to sing the words “Rocococococo Sofa”, it was Castello. Enjoy.
Can’t Stop, Animal Tropical drummer Jorge Rubiera’s new project, played their second show on Saturday night at Sweat Records to celebrate the release of the 12-song LP Neighborhood. “Their” might be the wrong pronoun as Can’t Stop’s only official member is Rubiera, who played every instrument except sax and flute on Neighborhood. But in both shows Rubiera played with a full band, including Animal Tropical mate Jarrett Hann on bass and Plains’ Michael McGinnis on drums at the Sweat show.
Having caught both Can’t Stop shows and listened to Neighborhood several times through, I’ve formed a preference for the live version of the songs. On the record, Rubiera indulges a confessed childhood love of ambient noise with scratches (“Thanks To JV”, #11 on our Top 15 SoFla Songs of 2010), sirens (“We’re Still Frenulums”), and static (“R-Complex”). But I’m not sure the noise adds much but noise to the songs, and part of me feels I’d like them more without the interference, which is how Rubiera plays them live.
Another reason I prefer live Can’t Stop to recorded Can’t Stop: the latter doesn’t do justice to Rubiera’s strong and instantly likable voice. This is most apparent with Neighborhood opener “Amygdala”. On the record, you might take the refrain “Get up, get going, get in a trance” as a sober request. Live it’s a freaking demand, albeit an unnecessary one, since the old-school backbeat and sax riff that drive the song out the gate will have most able-bodied listeners up and going before Rubiera sings his first syllable. The recorded version of “Amygdala” gets noisy midway through with some sustained guitar yawping, and again I’d prefer it didn’t, if only because it cuts into the tune’s killer groove (reminiscent of The Doors’ “Land Ho!”).
Sam Friend and co. made up for the cover at the Electric Pickle.
Miami bands Animal Tropical and Sam Friend played short sets at the Electric Pickle, in Wynwood, Thursday night. After coughing up $5 Wednesday for Churchill’s Acoustic Night — an unwarranted tax considering there was neither the crowd nor the lineup to justify labeling the event a “night” — I was none too happy to get pinched for another five spot at Electric Pickle’s door. Listen, I understand the bands need to get paid. But if two glasses of Jameson cost the same as a bottle of Jameson at your bar, then pay them out of my tab. Or live up to your strobe-light/website, which btw advertises no cover on Thursday nights, and throw a damn party. Otherwise, exacting $5 at the door — the door that leads to the bar with the $9 Jameson and the $7 Stella Artois — feels kinda effed up.
As for the music, Animal Tropical has an Of Montreal By Way Of Miami thing happening that I can get into via Jarrett Hann’s ping-pongy bass and Jorge Rubiera’s impetuous drumming. But Jose Castello’s tongue-in-cheek, pipe-in-mouth vocal style and mid-brow name dropping (Picasso, Henry James) don’t work for me.