Throughout the history of popular music, the jungle has served as a potent yet enigmatic metaphor for a world gone mad. For Guns N’ Roses, it represented the urban underbelly where innocence goes to die; for Kool & The Gang, it was a place to get down and boogie. But for Montreal prog-pop trio Plants and Animals, the truth lies somewhere in between. As singer/guitarist Warren Spicer tells Apple Music, the group’s fifth album is meant to conjure “a beautiful place that’s also dangerous for humans who are not used to being there. It’s that precarious feeling of being in danger, but also in awe of the beauty around us.” By Spicer’s own admission, The Jungle is “not a very tropical-sounding album,” though it does vividly conjure that on-edge sensation of being trapped in the bush as you machete your way through a dense thicket of mystical motorik jams (the title track), psychedelic-jazz haze (“In Your Eyes”), and panicked disco (“House on Fire”). But Spicer’s displays of Bowie-esque bravado—in full effect on the swashbuckling choruses of “Sacrifice” and “Bold”—shine like like sudden bursts of sunlight cutting through the palms, while the album’s grave geopolitical concerns are balanced by heartfelt meditations on blossoming romance and family ties. Though it’s the shortest album of Plants and Animals’ career to date, The Jungle abounds with disorienting details, surprise left turns, and sudden sneak attacks. Fortunately, Spicer is here to lead a track-by-track safari to guide you safely through it.
The Jungle “The lyrics for this were written the day of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing. We were at the studio, and it was on TV in one of the rooms, so we were coming in and out while that was playing out. And then the lyrics were kind of pieced together on the spot about the judge on trial, and there's a line about 'white-collar jungle’ because [the hearing] just seemed like this kind of wild environment, but in a white-collar setting. To be honest, we didn't have a firm idea of what to call the record at that point, but I think ‘The Jungle’ is kind of an open title that can be applied to lots of things.”
Love That Boy “When you're parenting at home and something goes wrong and the kids are screaming, you just need to blow off some steam. I have a laundry room in the back of my apartment that doubles as a little studio, so I went in there and worked on this song just as therapy to calm me from being overwhelmed with my kids and my life. It was a way to process everything. It's kind of a love song to my family.”
House on Fire “I had a friend who was using a lot of sleeping pills, and I was worried that he was going to forget he left his stove on. So that's where the lyrics came from. But then very quickly, it was obvious this song was going to be about global warming. And then Greta Thunberg wrote her book Our House Is on Fire, so it very quickly was out of my hands. It's kind of an urgent message, like, 'Oh shit! Don't fall asleep while our house is burning!' This song doesn't feel that cerebral to me—it's more a body thing. Just turn it up and it moves, you know?”
Sacrifice “Usually it's either me or [guitarist] Nic [Basque] who writes the demos that we bring in to the band, and 'Sacrifice' was one that I had worked on. To go from that 6/8 heavy groove on the verses into that chorus with the la-la-las—I don't know, I just knew that's where the song was going to go. Even though it was kind of wacky, it just made sense to me.”
Get My Mind “This was Nic's song that he had put together—musically, he pretty much had the whole thing all shaped out. But lyrically, he was singing some gibberish over it, and the only real kind of fragment he had was 'get my mind.' That was all I had to work with. My dad had passed away, and at that time, I was just dealing with all the loose ends of somebody's life. Some people die and they're very responsible and take care of all that stuff, and some people don't, and I was just left with a bunch of shit that I had to deal with. So the idea of this song is just about the things that you've inherited. Your genetics, the way you do things, the way you were brought up—these are all things that you were taught or given to you. So this song explores what happens when you're gifted these things. Want it or not, it’s there. And becoming a father really exposes it to you in a new way. There's a lot about yourself you learn, and a lot about understanding who your father was.”
Le Queens "This is a love song in French that Nic wrote about his girlfriend [Adèle Trottier-Rivard]. We were on tour, and she was not his girlfriend at the time—she was singing with us. We were in New York, in Queens, and we were out at a really cool bar and there was a wedding party there and everybody was dancing, and I think that's when Nic and Adèle kind of realized there was something going on with them. But we all sing on it. Ultimately, it's a nice, groovy, hazy, psychedelic love song."
In Your Eyes “I love that jam at the end. Whatever's going on at the end of this song is really where our band started; we used to do that kind of thing a lot more. We did this with Mishka Stein, who plays bass with Patrick Watson. We're good friends, so we asked him to come in on that song. This was obviously pre-COVID, but everybody was super sick with this crazy head cold, and everybody was on decongestants and DayQuil and there was some cognac. We just got into whatever that zone was and let it happen. We were completely spaced out and went into a really nice musical place.”
Bold "This one is also about father/son stuff, ultimately, and whatever was going on with me and my dad at that time just before he passed away. There is some frustration in it, but also some tenderness. Obviously, sonically, the chorus is really quite large, and I don't know why I wanted to do that. Musically, the verses are super warm and laidback and the guitars are super low-tuned and the drums are groovy...but then this chorus hits and it's all tension and urgency. I like the flip—I like those two things together in a song.”