“I do animals, not people” sang Alex G, way back in 2015. In those early years of recognition, it would have been easy to interpret this as an extension of the mystique that surrounded his music. This was a musician who felt more comfortable surrounded by furry friends than human ones. Locked away in his bedroom, writing songs entirely alone, it was easy to picture a solitary existence, punctuated by house shows or gigs in DIY spaces. In the dying days of CD-Rs, fans scoured the internet to put together their own compilations in honour of this prolific writer who seemed to overflow with imagination and creativity.
He can’t keep getting away with it.
Fast-forward seven years to the arrival of God Save The Animals, Alex G’s excellent ninth album and the perspective is now one of protection, not of kinship. In stepping away from the bedroom and into the studio, G has physicalised the transition from the Darling of Making Do with What You Have to the purveyor of Going Big or Going Home. Nothing about the thirteen tracks on show here are understated. This is a call out to the world at large; a statement that defines Giannascoli as one of the great song-writers of his generation. One needs look no further than second single ‘Runner’ to see the talents on show – a song of secrecy and connection, over simple chords that bed against lyrics of profound meaning: ‘Load it up, know your trigger like the back of my hand’. This is an instruction to see, a reminder of the importance of connection in an increasingly separate world. Could it be that the animals needing some divine intervention are in fact us?
The world is ever moving and changing, encapsulated on opener ‘After All’ when G sings ‘After all, people come and people go away.’ Voice manipulation is at this point somewhat of a trademark, and across the album the words arrive to us fractured, pitched, darkend and twisted. To see him in the live setting is to see an artist attempt to recreate these amendments through the human voice alone. It will be exciting to see ‘No Bitterness’ in this context, with an outro that apes the very best of modern hyperpop whilst maintaining the small room acoustic guitars that were prominent across DSU and Race.
Each Alex G album takes from the last and here is no different. For fans of Rocket’s country inspired sound, ‘Miracles’ sits centre stage, a lament on the fears of an expectant father. At its conclusion lies ‘Forgive’, with its clarified banjos, an appeal to ‘forgive yesterday’, carrying the theme of nostalgic back-staring that is present across so much of Alex G’s discography. This is an artist who felt whimsical in his earliest writings – it’s no wonder that Frank Ocean got him on board for his melancholic opus Blonde which relied so much on the idea that ‘the good times have come and gone’.
In the music video for ‘Blessing’, the band don nu-metal outfits and bop out in what appears to be a relatively derelict house. It’s a call back to the worlds of Slipknot and Limp Bizkit, of a time when bag cargo trousers had to be held together with chains. There’s even a beautiful HUGGGH thrown in for good measure. Whilst not incongruous with the rest of the record it feels somewhat jarring – until you realise that in an album focusing on a quasi-religious need to save all that is falling apart, even the most left-field moments of our lives must be turned to. Upon hearing the title of the album, a friend remarked: ‘Oh, so now he’s Alex Gesus’. It was a strange comment at first, but one that does make sense. This is a man who has walked in the proverbial wilderness it seems, in search of songs that echo the anxieties of our time. In a world where God does seem somewhat absent, who replaces that need for spirituality? Often it is musicians whom we worship on stages like alters. Alex G seems to want to remind us that if we stare too long at them, we’ll forget the animals we need to survive.
God Save The Animals is out now – order / stream here
Find out more on Alex G’s official website
Review by Alexander Sarychkin