While Carla Bozulich may have left behind punk songwriting years ago, she remains true to punk’s spirit. More than any of her albums under the Evangelista moniker, In Animal Tongue shows how devotees of punk and charismatic religion share a hunt for raw, ‘authentic’ experience. Here, Bozulich continues the quest for authenticity — in her words: “real versus fake!!!” — in nine tracks that showcase her talent for welding fragility to strength.
With Christian tropes threaded through track titles, religious themes are more overt and consistent in this outing than prior ones, but the emotional territory she covers is just as fertile, varied, and toxic as it has been in the past. Her narrators could be in the throes of religious ecstasy, tripping on acid, or both. They believe in their visions and are aware of their own frailty. “Look in my cracked eye/ You’ll see planets,” she sings on “Artificial Lamb.”
Musically, she conjures pagan rituals, exalted deaths, and erotic visions from within a cauldron of reverb. Electric guitars chuff along beneath her voice layered across its many registers. She can bellow and she can squeal; often in these songs, she’s doing both at once.
Listening to the album in its weaker moments — like “Die Alone” — is more like walking through a second-rate haunted house than witnessing a clairvoyant at the mercy of her own visions. But at its best, when Bozulich is not just casting the spells, but stirring herself into the brew, In Animal Tongue ranks among the most provocative work she’s done in recent years.