The Wind-Up Birds - Desire Paths - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Wind-Up Birds - Desire Paths

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2018-02-19
The Wind-Up Birds - Desire Paths
The Wind-Up Birds - Desire Paths

Mark E Smith once sang about the war against intelligence. If there is indeed such a war than its clear what side The Wind-Up Birds are on. Sometimes rock ‘n’ roll is all about playing dumb but you won’t find any of that here.

Vocalist Kroyd has weaved his rather brilliant lyrics into the bands energetic indie-punk for 15 years. Not that you’d necessarily know about them. Despite a number of excellent releases the band has managed to stay criminally under-exposed. Desire Paths will just have to be our little secret.

Kroyd has a knack for putting a new spin on a subject, never opting for a predictable or will-that-do kind of lyric. Opening song ‘Riddled’ is a case in point. The song explores love from an outsider’s perspective as the singer watches a couple dancing around their front room. A simple moment caught and immortalised at the centre of an increasingly restless inner-monologue. Casually summing up a load of things you’ve no doubt thought but could never quite articulate.

With Brexit, the Tory government, Trump and the perilously fragile state of world affairs, there’s always going to be plenty to write about. Most bands won’t bother yet ‘Where we built Our Settlements’ and much of Desire Paths for that matter, feels like some kind of, uncomfortably familiar, snapshot of the UK and beyond.

The imagery is cut-up and scattershot but always impassioned; “now we’re too old for war/ we really want a war/ we’ve had enough of public relations”. Like a TV constantly flicking between the latest horrors on the news and a Richard Curtis film on the other channel.

Galloping drums and an effects laden guitar introduce ‘The Astronauts’; a world of monotonous repetition and attention seekers, a place where everyone’s a “nasty little bastard”. It’s almost like an episode of Black Mirror at times but even closer to the bone. ‘Long Paths of Desire’ crashes into view next with a cacophony of tumbling drums and endlessly looped, barely decipherable, vocals.

We get the LP’s first moment of calm with the arrival of ‘Goes around Gets Worse’. Maybe I’m just a miserable sod but this might just be my favourite song on the album. The songs gentle, cyclical melody fits the lyric perfectly as Kroyd tells us about abandoned streets and bodies piled up in sold-off high street banks. It might sound a tad apocalyptic but the song comes across more as a sigh of world-weary resignation. 

‘We find ourselves living too long’ breaks the melancholic spell with a thunderous drum roll and a barely contained, wiry riff. Kroyd is on fine form as he sings, “You’re like a Christmas tree left up all year/ you’ve moved from ‘festive fun’ to something more sinister”. It’s a place of indifference and anger where “happiness is a fleeting thing”. It might just be the backing vocals but this one reminds me a little of the mighty Gang of Four.

Desire Paths may be a dark album in many ways but humour is never far away. The brief ‘Ghost Based Love Song’ opens with a confession of sorts, “Here’s my latest attempt at a ghost-based love song/ like ‘Wuthering Heights’ or that other one”. What follows is, unsurprisingly, nothing like Kate Bush but is great nonetheless.

‘Look at the posh houses!’ races into view on the back of a propulsive bass line and a jagged riff. Fast, urgent and building to one last battle cry, “escape from Middle England”. That line in particular manages to capture the incendiary spirit of the album. An album littered with little Englanders and bad news but where our narrator has one eye firmly fixed on the exit. There’s always a smidgen of hope to cling onto; like the couple dancing in the first song, a helping hand or a way out. 

We come to a close with the rather lovely ‘Ta’. The music is much calmer than before, gentle and soothing. Kroyd reassures us, “don’t worry, this isn’t going all Wonderful Tonight”. The song serves as a simple thank you to the person who helped him through, “conversations got me through/ the conversations with you”. Clapton can keep his song; this one’s much more comforting.

Clocking in at just less than 30 minutes, it’s the band’s shortest album to date yet it never feels less than satisfying. Kroyd covers a lot of ground lyrically, easily up there with the likes of Jarvis Cocker or any other well-loved wordsmith you could care to mention. Like all the best lyricists, the words here create a world to get lost in.

The rest of the band has never sounded more vital, channelling the urgency of the best post-punk. All-in-all it makes for a brilliantly engaging half hour. If you haven’t heard The Wind-Up Birds yet then you’re forgiven but you really, really need to get caught up. Desire Paths is the perfect place to start.

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It's available here on their bandcamp page, along with all the other releases (including the ace 'The Right' EP)

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