Two Wounded Birds' genre-hopping debut worth the ride
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
So much of listening to new music, unfortunately, is an exercise in the listener trying desperately to nail a band down to a specific style, to define, compartmentalize and file the songs accordingly in an effort to manage expectations.
It’s a battle, but it’s one this writer faces often when listening to unfamiliar tunes. To open up and accept the music, then, is an act that requires a bit of discipline. When the music is engaging and great, though, that job of letting go and accepting becomes much easier.
So is the case with Two Wounded Birds and their self-titled debut, a collection of songs that spring up and down the genre staircase without so much as wasted breath.
The game started immediately as I listened the first few times through. That “Ramones-Plus-Dick-Dale” vibe that can sound so trite when lazily thrown about, but sound so good when done with the right amount of zeal. I was convinced that this band was from somewhere near Orange County, Calif., but instead, they hail from Margate, setting up shop along the shore of southeast England and honing their garage sensibilities to the tilt. Not unlike Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet nailing their best Link Wray riffs in the cold of Canada, I suppose.
The honky tonk romp of “Daddy’s Junk” and the far-out instrumental “The Last Supper” are throwbacks to not just the rockabilly era of the 1950s that saw so many bands pop up in dance halls and high school gymnasiums across the country, but to the 1980s, when the revival took on a firm grasp across North America and in the United Kingdom, where the Teddy Boys were clasped on in one last attempt to keep the rocker spirit alive in the good name of Carl Perkins and Eddie Cochrane.
But there’s a shift. About halfway through the record, the jangly surf punk gives way to somber ballads and, from there, spacy, moody rock. The music ebbs more than it twists, and it suits them beautifully. It’s a curve that only the better bands can pull off, and Two Wounded Birds do their best to make it work within the confines of the LP.
The mellow tones of “No Goodbyes” and vocalist Johnny Danger’s vocals floating atop a delay heavy guitar and organ certainly creates the intended mood. If the lyrics, for argument’s sake, are more Noel Gallagher than Bob Dylan in their level of introspection, they’re certainly effective and touching. After two-thirds of an album of rave-up rockers, there’s a sweetness here.
This record, then, is not about trying to peg where the band is from, to which era the music dates or even what it’s referencing. This record is about establishing this band for the folks who haven’t yet gotten the nod, who want to know what the story is. Simply, the band wants the story to be that they can do whatever they want.
Where debut albums so often box bands into corners and neat sub-genres of rock and roll, Two Wounded Birds has left the door wide open. This band can write any kind of song it wants. It’ll be more than interesting to hear what direction they travel next.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com