Each track has been given the name of an animal with its other title in brackets behind. I like this. I suppose if you've just stopped believing in God calling a song about greatness and mortality "MONKEY" is a heavily-loaded act. (Or am I treating her like a refugee from the mid-nineteenth century?) And I read the album was recorded in Leipzig in east Germany. And I think I might've stayed at the campsite they mentioned, which is a tickle, isn't it? I just can't keep that back story shut out, can I?
At the same time it sounds a little like the soundtrack for Match.com, quirky and heartfelt and whimsical. Especially "MOLE", which tells us the only way to meet people is by "colliding in a tunnel that connects two bubbles"; a more realistic assessment than wandering into a junk shop and parroting some loon on a broken piano. That bearded guy on the railway platform has done a lot of damage to my conceptions of the singer-songwriter type.
Sounds as though the album was recorded once, then they left the tapes in a shed with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and asked them to slap some more sounds on it. I like that plan.
Her voice has that crystalline Tori Amos feeling. "BEAR" has a baroque pluck about it and seems to mention a "Welsh invasion" of "the soggy streets of Budapest". If there's any nation that could take urban warfare to soggy streets, it's the Cymric horde. Several lyrics mention a first experience of snow, flying and forgiveness. Then there's the title-ish track "MAN (Idealistic Animals)", which swoops and choirs about and blows on trumpets, reaching into the hole where the God ideas where and touching on a feel of paradise "now and then". As it heads to a close, "ELEPHANT" mourns the loss of "familiarity" and being able to rely on her faith because "we've travelled too far" and "the sorrow's too loud", before "KITE" promises that "Soon we'll light upon something beautiful" and a noise like the Aborigine noisemaker in Crocodile Dundee II wraps things up. Optimism bubbling up.
It could be too cute, too sweet. But there's some pain, some clarinets and some exploration to push it nearer my idea of human experience.
Rating: The Ark out of Creationism