Our Verdict: 5/5
Find it at: The Birds of Satan.com
Holy shitballs, Batman! Is this a Bossa nova record?! Listen! It’s definitely there on ‘Pieces Of The Puzzle’!
Wait a minute.
It’s an epic, 70’s-styled psychedelic prog behemoth, redolent of masters such as Pink Floyd! Just check out 10-minute opener ‘The Ballad of The Birds of Satan’, or the harmonious majesty of the album’s closer, ‘Too Far Gone To See’!
Hang on, just a second longer.
Actually, it’s a groove-centric, stoner-inflected, straight-up classic rock record! Wrap your ears around that guitar work in ‘Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, the forward momentum of ‘Thanks for the Line’, or the Allman-esque balladry of ‘Raspberries.’
Nope. That doesn’t quite cover it either.
Somehow, in summary, the eponymous debut album from The Birds of Satan is all of these things and yet none of them. It’s a boundary-hopping, rule-breaking, category-defying rock n’ roll masterpiece. It’s the kind of record that comes around once in a blue moon (or red moon, given the lunar eclipse taking place as the record was released.) Made quickly – it was recorded in a week – and fearlessly by musicians – nay artists – at the top of their game, it’s an absolute gem.
There’s rhythmic complexity and dynamism aplenty across the songs presented here. You might argue that there should be, given that a third of the core band happens to be one of the world’s best known drummers in Taylor Hawkins. But his talented tub-thumping is more than ably matched by Mick Murphy’s skilful six-stringing, and Wiley Hodgden’s dextrous bass.
The chemistry of the group is undeniable, as every track pops and fizzes with a feeling of freedom, release and unabashed joy. You can quite imagine these three men, ensconced in Studio 606, eyes closed, heads down, instinctively feeling their way through each track. And then, after that successful take that captured this lightning in a bottle, looking up at each other, grins on faces, knowing that this is just how they wanted to sound.
Other instrumentation is brought in on selected tracks to complement songs where appropriate; guitar, bass and drums being augmented with piano, harpsichord, studio sounds and – memorably on one occasion – a recording of a crying baby. Dave Grohl and Pat Smear make fleeting guest appearances, and Hawkins’ vocals are strong throughout too, holding the tunes and supplying a welcome, warm, raw and bluesy grit.
And damn, when is Mick Murphy going to get his due?! Here is a wildly under-appreciated guitarist if ever there was one, delivering the music for My Ruin’s best album of their career during 2013, releasing his own new instrumental LP under the Neanderthal moniker, working away on the upcoming Teenage Time Killers album, gigging extensively with Chevy Metal, and now helping to deliver this delightful slab of hair-raising rock n’ roll. They don’t come much better, and his work is stunning throughout, providing several of the albums high points in the tones, textures, rhythms and solos that propel the album along.
Let’s not forget Hodgden, either. Long-time friend of Hawkins or not, you don’t make an album this good without a top-flight rhythm section, and Wiley more than holds his own. Listen closely and there he is, locking the groove, delivering the low-end, bringing the funk and – when Mick takes flight – holding each and every song together.
To say that The Birds of Satan has been consistently talked about as a side-project for Hawkins, Murphy and Hodgden, it feels to these ears far more substantial than that. How the world receives it; whether any more albums appear; whether this proves to be a one off gift or the start of something bigger; only time will tell. Whatever the outcome, be grateful that this fine record exists for your listening pleasure. The pieces of it’s puzzle certainly fit.
So, contrary to popular belief, the Devil doesn’t have all the best tunes. Take a stroll over to his aviary, however, and you might just find them there.
The Birds of Satan is out now on Shanabelle Records.
Buy it, and learn more about the band at The Birds of Satan.com
Check out the band’s promo video for the album below