The album opens with The Bullet, a fantastic opening salvo which I have previously reviewed as a single [read review here: http://www.brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/12-music/123-birdeatsbaby-the-bullet]. It sets the pace and introduces us to key elements of the bands sound which they elaborate on. 'Drinking In The Day' is a mid-paced ballad that adds some bluesy elements to the mix, led by a strong pop melody and a fantastic string arrangement, it ends by highlighting the gorgeous vocal harmonies by stripping away the rest of the instrumentation.
With the macabre imagery the band have always employed you might expect their output to tend more towards heavy gothic rock. 'Enemies Like Me' is the first to really deliver upon this expectation, opening with a drum rhythm reminiscent of Marilyn Manson's 'The Beautiful People'. Part of me wants the song to hit a ridiculously heavy crescendo but instead it's the orchestral elements and strings that really shine in the arrangement and instead of taking the obvious route Birdeatsbaby take one that is more theatrical, stripping down to arpeggios, vocal and string for an emotional winding-down that leads us perfectly into 'Ghosts', the first single to be released from the album. 'Ghosts' reminds me a little of William Orbit's 'Barbers Adagio For Strings' in the way it takes classical motifs and presents them with modern synth sounds and production techniques. Birdeatsbaby avoid the cheesy house beat though, opting for more atmospheric sparse, reverb soaked percussion hits and a powerful, beautiful vocal delivery.
'Hands Of Orlac' begins with a moody sparse intro that seems to borrow some of the mystery from David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' title music before picking up to take us on a progression, with each section textured differently as the song builds and builds toward the powerful refrain of “father/sire/father/liar”, underpinned by an excellent synth-line, before exploding into some of the heaviest heights of the album, signalling the halfway point.
'Into The Black' is a beautifully short track led by a music hall style piano line and excellent cello work from guest star Melora Creager. Creager is probably the coolest cello player you could find to collaborate with as founder of the cult cello-rock group Rasputina and a touring member of Nirvana during the European leg of their 'In Utero' tour. A little over a minute long 'Into The Black' forms the first part of a mid-album diversion that is completed by another short piece – the haunting 'Interlude' with floating choral vocals, bass guitar arpeggios and distant tremolo strummed guitars. Another atmospheric piece, that is almost cinematic, 'Interlude' segues into 'Tenterhooks' which returns us to Birdeatsbaby's rockier side, welcoming us to the second half of the album. It's melodies remind me a little of some of the Armenian scales utilised by System of a Down and the arrangement keeps you guessing – it's amazing how much they get through in under four minutes.
'Spiders' is set to be the next single from the album, a duet with Gabby Young (of Gabby Young and Other Animals fame). It's one of the more synthetic sounding tracks of the album, heavily processed drums and bass create a driving groove to accompany soft electric pianos and spiralling violin lines which give way to chunky distorted guitar. It's another excellent piece of arrangement which veers between sparse sections, used to highlight solo instruments, and dense sections where the band really rock out. It wouldn't be a single candidate without strong melodies and these appear in abundance, particularly the catchy repetition of the word 'cold'.
'The Lighthouse ' is a slow ballad full of lovely piano and string flourishes. The heavy, steady drums work well with the lyrics which describe the 'Seventy Steps to the lighthouse' – making me imagine a laboured walk to an isolated tower. The lighthouse is a symbolic beacon of hope to a sailor but here it is presented as more of a prison for the inhabitant. This is one of the times the band recall Muse in their ability to fuse classical elements with modern rock and pop.
'My Arms Will Open Wide' is a late favourite of mine on the album, with melodies and a groove that seems oh-so familiar. I couldn't figure out which song this reminded me of as there are moments that recall Bill Withers 'Lovely Day', Squeeze's 'Cool For Cats' or even '5 Years' from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album. I feel the band have absorbed a smorgasbord of influences and yet this song, as with every other, is unmistakeably Birdeatsbaby which is a real triumph. The band simultaneously display their pop sensibility whilst maintaining their alternative authenticity. The song ends with a steady bass figure on each beat of the bar, a trick we’ve not heard since the first two songs of the album, which is a nice touch for bringing us towards a finale where they are joined by briefly duelling guitar and violins.
The album closes with 'Silence' – another piece along the lines of 'Ghosts', that wears its classical roots firmly on its sleeve. The verse melody reminds me of Radiohead’s ‘Wolf at the Door‘ and is followed by a gentle chorus, “But I could try/Silence is our master”, boasting one of the most beautifully delivered vocals on the album followed by the most aggressive verse. It’s hard to tell if they’re going to go out with a bang or a melancholic lilt. Either would have worked if well executed but the lilt we are treated to ending on a haunting dark piano chord is perfectly Birdeatsbaby.
With the album recording completed Birdeatsbaby ran a hugely successful kickstarter campaign to help them to release it properly – including touring and enabling them to create what is easily the best looking CD release artwork I've seen this year. The record is presented in a digipak which opens up in a cross shape; there's a complete lyric book, illustrations of each band member blowing their brains out and some excellent photographs of the group. With such excellent presentation, production and songs it would be a travesty if this isn't a breakthrough record for one of our brightest local talents. Don't take my word for it though – go out and grab yourself a copy!