Mourning Birds finally released their debut album last week; after a long build up (basically foreplay) with the band teasing fans with a video release for single “The Last Thing (I Need)” and the excellent live coverage of their recent BBC Introducing show, expectations were high (according to a few of their mates’ mums anyway – their words, not mine). But I have to say, even with the high expectations of a rabid menopausal fan base frothing (did I really just write that?..) in anticipation, the self-titled effort lives up to expectations and more. Definitely, absolutely worth the wait!
Frothy mental images aside, Mourning Birds are really a very good band with all of their obvious unity and on-stage ferocity captured in the record. The album is satisfyingly filthy in places, with the pleasing hint of debauchery which makes all good rock and roll so worthwhile.
With a solid and fast pace from the off the record holds your attention without ever feeling rushed. The pounding grooves of the rhythm section are infectious throughout, leading the rest of the band through a superb track list. Although all the songs are pretty damn good (and I’m not going to ruin the surprise by going through them all one by one), there are a few tracks which do warrant a mention (“I’m sick” has been on repeat since I first heard it. Fucking amazing).
Hidden amongst the fine blues/noise that you would expect from such luminaries of the Medway Delta scene, are some real stand out tracks. “Evile” kicks off the album with style and aplomb before the excellent “Surrender” bathes listeners in full-fuzzed goodness with Bill Williams’ bass having an almost QOTSA-esque vibe in places. “Breathe” incorporates a satisfyingly grungy loud/quiet dynamic, evocative of the cardigan clad noise artists of the early 90s. The dual vocals of guitarist James Gilder and drummer Sam Mitchell are rich and full, contrasting nicely with one another over the fizz and thump of the backing. The larynx-shredding chorus is catchy enough to stay buzzing around the brain for a few hours afterwards and each growling line of the refrain bringing with it a desire to eat though a packet of cough sweets (branding removed – fuck advertising), musical codeine if you will. Fine work all round.
“Sunday” is another superb track which manages to drift between a floaty and pleasant acoustic guitar line before diving into a jarringly headachy distorted riff. At first listen it is an unexpected and intriguing contrast but by 25 seconds in you’ll grow to embrace it. Equally disconcerting yet weirdly familiar, like that morning Grandma accidentally took the wrong pills and started smashing up the kitchen. The dissonance is pleasing to the ears, with the conflicting vocals and guitar held together by the tight work of the rhythm section.
Many alternative blues bands often fall into the trap of going OTT on the guitar solos, causing tracks to often feel overdone and bloated with wankery (coughJackWhitecough). Thankfully this is a pitfall that Mourning Birds have managed to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, Gilder does show off his excellent technique and ability with a number of solos dotted around the album, but they have their own place, befitting each song perfectly – and at no point does it feel overly forced or wanky. A fine example of this is in the excellent estuary-punk track “Oh Yeah”. Squealy goodness.
Other notable mentions go to the fine laid-back blues-rock of “Kill What You Want“. ‘Eve Of The Isle’ and ‘Come Back’ invited me to the pants party while lead track ‘The Last Thing (I Need)’ provided the soundtrack (to the pants party that is).
Mourning Birds have made a fantastic album here, a solid effort by one of Medway’s brightest lights, it’s so good that (whisper it) you wouldn’t ever guess that it’s their debut. Mourning Birds’ self-titled album is available on iTunes and you’d be an idiot to miss it.