On his fourth and longest release so far (at nine songs), Lawrence piano-banger Charles S. McVey puts his recording-school degree to extensive use. Piled high with booming keys, isolation-booth drums, power guitars, layered vocals, and the occasional flute flurry thrown in for good measure, Animal virtually smells of the polished wood of a fancy recording studio. As a singer, McVey shows off his unofficial diploma from the Grunge Vocal Academy, his over-the-top growl giving the dude from Seven Mary Three a run for his flannel. So similar is McVey's style to FM radio rock that this may well be the one gay concept album that straight, Nickelback-loving broheims could rock to in their extended cab pickups on the way to nab some Buffalo wings and pussy. They'd just better not look at the album art, which features McVey dressed as a priest making out with, and getting peed on by, a gay porn star dressed as Jesus.
Yet for all of Animal's religio-homoerotic effrontery, McVey's lyrics are broad and vague enough to make the songs accessible to casual music fans. You say that the way I love is strange/I think that the way you hate is perverse and deranged, McVey bleats on "Pride," saying absolutely nothing new. But regardless of what he's on about lyrically, McVey sounds pretty awesome when he hits a sweet hook, like on the album's centerpieces, "Prayersong I & II" and the genuinely moving "Collar." As a pompous provacateur, McVey is mediocre; as a musician, dude's got talent.