“A cathartic return”

WORDS BY LAUREN KERNAN

When news broke in 2018 that indie quartet Glass Animals may never play again after drummer Joe Seaward suffered a serious head injury in a road accident, fans were left distraught. Their unique blend of genres and incredible live performances charged with seemingly unlimited energy would be sorely missed. We were all praying for Joe and his loved ones during that time and over the last 18 months, he has made a miraculous recovery. The band has been able to reunite with a new lease of life with Dreamland, their third studio album which explores themes and styles the band had never delved into before. However, in trying to tackle so many new concepts the album itself is left feeling a little unpolished and rushed, as the band sought to get closure over this difficult chapter in their lives.

In July 2018, Joe was hit by a lorry whilst cycling in Dublin. The accident left him with a broken leg and severe brain damage. All remaining tour dates for the band were immediately cancelled and the quartet decided that without Joe they would not be making any more music. Joe had been told by doctors that a full recovery was highly unlikely that he may never walk again, let alone play the drums.

However, Joe was determined to get better and get behind the drum kit again. After two life-threatening operations, he suffered from short term memory loss. At first, he couldn’t walk, talk, eat by himself, read or write. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Joe talked about the process of recovery; “[i]t was baby steps to begin with. Talking was first, which took a while. Then thinking, reading, walking, I had to start from scratch really.” After five long months, Joe could sit back down at the drum kit. Starting with simple drum patterns which he mastered within weeks, he began building back up his skills to the drummer he had been before the accident. On the first day back in the studio, Joe told NME that “[i]t was incredible to part of the team again. There is no feeling in the world like writing and recording a song and feeling proud of it. I suddenly felt normal again – whatever that means – and like I could help once more.”

Glass Animals – 'Dreamland' album review

Dave Bayley, the band’s frontman and songwriter, flew out to the hospital that Joe had been admitted to as soon as he heard the news. He stayed by Joe’s side throughout the recovery process and, as a neuroscience graduate, was able to help Joe’s family understand what was happening to him. This whole experience had a profound effect on Bayley and greatly influenced his song-writing on Dreamland. Previously, Bayley had centred around the stories of others lives in “How to be a human being”, interviewing people he met throughout the years of writing it. However, Bayley began to realise that he had asked others deeply personal questions but had shied away from asking those same questions about himself. The time spent by Seaward’s bedside allowed Bayley the introspection and confrontation of his emotions that were necessary to finally write about them.  

The autobiographical album sees Bayley revisit his childhood. His formative years were spent in the small town College Station, Texas, where showing emotion was frowned upon,  due to the deeply embedded patriarchal views of how ‘real’ men should behave. The inner turmoil Bayley experienced knowing that he didn’t fit into this cookie-cutter model of expected behaviour caused him to spend a lot of his childhood daydreaming for an escape, influencing the title “Dreamland”. This is reflected in the mental escape that the album is meant to provide with its ethereal and lullaby melodies, highlighted in the title track.

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“Dreamland” was set to fully capture of Bayley’s life and those in it, facing a variety of emotions with lightness and nostalgia. This spanned from the mundane experiences like watching “The Price is Right” and growing pains, to the tougher issues in life, like relationships, sexuality and family. 

The album saw a push for experimenting with more genres including hip-hop that Bayley listened to growing up, largely influencing the new trap spin. Hip-hop had acted as an escape for Bayley from his closed-off childhood and made him feel like he could be anybody. In Tokyo Drifting (ft. Denzel Curry), he reimagines himself as a new character ‘Wavey Davey’ capable of taking on the hip-hop genre and making it his own. 

Your Love (Deja vu) felt most similar to their previous work, with their early noughties R&B style characterising the song about a broken relationship which you’re addicted to the pain of. 

There’s a sense of vulnerability throughout the album as Bayley opens up to us for the first time. This outpouring of emotion crescendos in the last few songs, including It’s All So Incredibly Loud and Domestic Bliss, which describe the breaking point of a relationship and domestic abuse. 

The album is further tied together and the sense of nostalgia is reiterated with clips of Bayley’s mother speaking in home movies. The album is charged with a new lease of life and it’s clear that they have poured everything they had into it. However, it seemed that wanting to close this difficult chapter of their lives whilst simultaneously taking on changes to their established sound has meant that the album sometimes sounds unpolished and rushed in places.

We are thrilled that the boys are back in action with their new tour planned for 2021 to see the fiery group with a new energy back on the stage. They’ve promised the future will be very busy and we are thankful that the album has been able to give the band closure on a traumatic time. 

FOR FANS OF

Alt J | Hot Chip | Jungle

LISTEN TO “YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU)” HERE