Animals With Human Intelligence

Enuff Z'Nuff

Arista Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The old saying goes that the third time's the charm. In the case of Chicago-area rockers Enuff Z'Nuff, the third time around, 1993's Animals With Human Intelligence, worked in reverse of the old saying. It is the first album from Chip Z'Nuff and crew which doesn't quite seem to know which way it wants to go on the musical spectrum.

To be sure, Z'Nuff and crew had made sure their musical horizons were broad from the start, and their first two albums reflected that synergy of styles. But this time around, things were different for the band - much different. First, they had parted with Atco Records and signed up with Arista. Second, they let drummer Vic Fox, relegating him to the status of "additional musician" for Animals With Human Intelligence (despite the fact he played on the entire album).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the biggest problem might have been with the band and the revolving door of producers. Some of the disc was produced by Richie Zito; the bulk of the chores were handled by Z'Nuff, guitarist/vocalist Donnie Vie and Phil Bonanno. Zito had the knowledge of how to keep the band sounding fresh to a fickle musical public; Z'Nuff and crew, on the other hand, seemed to want to go deeper into the structures of the sounds, tackling more mature expressions.

Did it work? To be frank, it really depends on when I listen to this disc. Animals With Human Intelligence is not the kind of disc that lends itself to instant fan gratification. There are days I find myself impressed with most of this disc; there are days when this disc sounds like a tremendous disappointment. After owning this disc and listening to it for seven years, I've never been able to come to a consensus on it - though the listen I gave it before writing this bordered on disappointment.

It's not that Z'Nuff and his bandmates didn't know a pop hit from a pop tart. Tracks like "Takin' A Ride" and "The Love Train" prove that the chops that had been laid out on the previous two albums were still there. Even some of the material that Zito handled, like "These Daze" and "One Step Closer To You," snaps with freshness.

Yet when Z'Nuff and crew turn the seriousness up, things tend to fall apart. Tracks like "Black Rain," "Innocence" and "Mary Anne Lost Her Baby" all don't have the same spark that the light, poppy tracks do. And I'm not merely singling out ballads; "Mary Anne Lost Her Baby" is a rocker by all definitions of the word. The difference is, it's not an interesting rocker, despite having subject matter which could have been quite promising.

Arista didn't seem to know just what to do with this disc; after one album, the band found themselves without a label. For that matter, with all the changes happening around the band, I'm not so sure the boys themselves knew just what to do with this disc. That's the price one pays for being cutting edge, I guess - even though the paisley suits and hippie beads of the Beatles-era rock fit Enuff Z'Nuff just fine. That's always realized in hindsight, though.

Animals With Human Intelligence is Enuff Z'Nuff's most challenging record to this point. Unfortunately, it also ranks as their most confusing.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.