Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Review: Butcher Birds - Eat Their Young EP

Apparently the 'grunge revival' is on in Brisbane... or so I've heard from many a source. At the forefront of this movement, along with Violent Soho, are Butcher Birds. But where Violent Soho thrash and scream and break shit, Butcher Birds take a more subdued route, relying more on pure volume and the power of The Riff.

The EP starts off with the precisely pounded drums of 'Mower' before being joined by hugely distorted guitar and bass underneath simplistic lead lines and melodic vocals, pretty much setting the blueprint for what follows. It should be noted that the vocals throughout the EP tend to find a good middle-ground between all-out riot grrl screaming and subdued shoegaze cooing. In fact, that's a pretty apt description of the band's sound overall; too heavy and 'sexy' to be punk, but too aggressive and dynamic for shoegaze.

Second off the block is my personal favourite, 'Tiger Paw'. It sounds like something that could quite easily fit in on the last two Sonic Youth records; catchy, with guitars that are content to snake along playing intertwined melodic lines with commendable restraint. That is, of course, until the chorus, where the guitar become their most Loveless-like in their distortion and gliding dissonance.

'Great Escape' holds the middle position on the album, and personally it's my least favourite. It's not bad per se, but the chugging palm-muted guitars seem to drag the song out beyond its 3:30 running time. Following on immediately after it is 'The Deal', another song built around a sludgy riff. Compared to previous song, 'Deal' benefits from a much catchier verse riff, a pretty cool chorus and outro (complete with chants of 'turn it up!') and a great deal of brevity (clocking in at an economical 2minutes).

Eat Their Young finishes with my second favourite track, 'Sweet Sweet Cones'. Built around a slowed down bass riff that recalls Pixies, the band pulls things back to a leisurely pace throughout the verses, waiting until the choruses to unleash the power chords. At the three minute mark the band heads into a massive middle sections with guitar harmonics that remind me of The Giants of Science's 'The Letter B' before returning for one last chorus and finally finishing with guitars feeding back.

So yeah, it's a good EP. I've found myself listening to it a lot more than I thought I would, largely due to 'Tiger Paw' and 'Sweet Sweet Cones' (and 'The Deal', to a lesser extent). It's definitely a first EP - I find myself thinking of Iron On's debut when listening to it, in that there's room for improvement but simultaneously the band have hit the ground running on a few tracks. Personally I'm hoping that Butcher Birds' next EP (or album) will be to this EP what Iron On's Everybody Calm Down was to The Understudy: more dynamic, noisier and yet more pop, and ultimately more assured. When I listen to this release I often find myself wishing for more feedback, more raw guitars, and drums that sound a bit trashier. This is definitely a fairly Hi-Fi recording (it's more Nevermind than In Utero or Bleach), and I wonder if it's perhaps to its slight detriment. A band like the Butcher Birds would probably benefit from a rawer edge.

Overall, I recommend it if you like your guitars loud and your riffs heavy.


jo said...

dude, thats a very thoughtful and really good review. we're putting in grants to make the follow up LP and the points you've made are ones we have been discussing..btw very glad to see you've mentioned the loveless ripoff in tiger paw, no-one else noticed..ha.

anyway, thank you very much again..

Cam said...

well, coming from such a respected journalist that's high praise indeed ;)

to be 100% honest i didn't expect to enjoy the ep as much as i have been. it's been on regular rotation since i bought it - in fact, i just listened to it this afternoon at work. i can truthfully say that i'm looking forward to the album.

Anonymous said...

Fuck yeah!!!