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A review of...

White Death To Power Alan by Year Of Birds

Date: 
March 17, 2017
Writer: 
Adam Millard
9.0

The gist

Year of Birds re-structure themselves and come up with their best collection yet

The music

Here is Year of Birds' new album, recorded in a new reconfigured format (Oli Heffernan on bass and vocals, Danielle Johnson on drums and Paul Coates on guitar) it might also be considered their first "proper" album after a string of split LPs, 45s, tapes and CDs released in various ways. This collection is their only release so far which was written with the intention of becoming an album, it's also their only release to be mastered by an external presence (Anthony Chapman of Collapsed Lung). Heffernan has also let someone else loose on the sleeve art: comic book artist Herr Seele producing a humorous nod to The Louvin Brothers' Satan Is Real.

Anyone who's familiar with Year of Bird's previous output may be surprised by the contents of White Death To Power Alan, for this is less noisy and more welcoming than anything that's gone before. Heffernan and Johnson are also members of King Champion Sounds and it sounds like they've been taking notes during their membership of that eclectic outfit. Similarly to KCS' To Awake in That Heaven of Freedom, this album proves that you can make challenging music with a definite accessible slant. One obvious, but major, shift is that you can actually hear the words that Heffernan is singing. Maybe this is a symptom of a songwriter becoming more confident with his own lyrics, and why not? there are some great ones on show here. For example, on the trudging "Cubists" there's something rhythmically pleasing about Heffernan's recital of his own line: "there ain't nothing finer than a panel designer". However, as much as Year of Birds have sharpened their lyrics, the highlight of this record is a song called "Fat", based on Raymond Carver's short story of the same name. It's funny and gripping and it gets its hooks into you just like The Velvet Underground's "The Gift" did (but with a less upsetting climax).

Before all that though, the album opens with "Western Splits (After Lear)", where Year of Birds set their stall out for their newly refined sound. It's an energetic and electrifying opening number which is a weird and angry as it is crowd pleasing. The old influences are there (most obviously The Fall), but the band have clearly cleaned themselves up and left some silence between the distorted notes. This continues with the swaggering "Benefits" before things descend into more traditional fuzzy punk territory on "Reader's Digest". From here on in there's lovely mix of experimentation, DIY punk riffage and total carnage.

Year of Birds have probably moved on from this album already, such is their creative restlessness, but White Death To Power Alan is an album that should be savoured for a long time. A confident new era for the band awaits.