Since the mid-2000s West Australian quintet, Birds of Tokyo, have gone from strength-to-strength, with each of the band’s studio albums going on to out-chart, and out-sell, the previous release. Regularly releasing albums and EPs, as well as their consistent presence on touring circuit, Birds of Tokyo have accrued a dedicated and growing fan base. When the group first emerged, I must admit to not being too keen on their alt-meets-indie rock sound. It was no fault of the band, but as they came from Perth, and had Ian Kenny out-front on vocals, it was almost instinctive to expect another Karnivool.
While Birds of Tokyo mightn’t sound like Karnivool – excepting Kenny’s excellent vocal talent – they do share more than a singer and a hometown. Both groups have proven from the start to be adept musicians, producing consistently solid and polished songs. Both have shown growth and development in their sounds and an affinity for progressive song structures. With their 5th studio album, Brace, Birds of Tokyo have pushed their sound in a dark, dirty, and heavy direction, while remaining true to the accessible alternative rock that formed the basis of their popularity.
Harlequins’ synth opening to start the album mightn’t immediately signal this new aural intensity, but the mildly dissonant pitch-shift quickly yields to a fuzzed out bass-line from Ian Berney, with Adam Spark’s guitar soon joining. Adam Weston’s drums are immaculately captured, demonstrating a spacious and lively sound, contrasting with the bass heavy main-riff, and this is the kind of production value that permeates Brace’s 10 tracks – courtesy of David Bottrill, who has worked with the likes of Tool, Muse, and Silverchair. The eponymous Brace is a tad middle-of-the-road, albeit the middle of a smooth, freshly laid, stretch of road.
Gods quickly finds its groove between a dark synth line and solid drumbeat, while Kenny’s vocals add an element of ascension to prevent the mood from becoming overly heavy. Hayley Mary from The Jezabels, lends her voice to Discoloured, and the addition of female vocals means the song pops-out at the listener for more than just its odd, ring-modulated, intro. Besides the overwrought opening lines – “If I had to drown myself in gasoline/would you carry the match for me?” – Pilot represents an example of how to construct a slow-burning song, and its progressive elements and build work well to introduce the listener to the industrial drumming of the progressive Crown.
In composing an album that is – according to Birds of Tokyo – intended to be played live, and incorporating heavier elements into their sound without detracting from the pristine indie/alternative rock that has defined them thus far, Birds of Tokyo have ensured their 5th record will appeal to fans, old and new alike.