The Wind-Up Birds - Wharf Chambers, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2012-04-29

The Wind-Up Birds are in a celebratory mood. Tonight they’re marking the release of their new album, the arrestingly urgent Poor Music. Latest single ‘The Gristle’ has received numerous spins on 6 Music courtesy of indie protector-of-the-flame Steve Lamacq, while the band has gathered quite a following since releasing their first 7in in 2010. The group has lined up a diverse and interesting evening, a line-up which certainly reflects their genuine appreciation of good music.

Not enough gigs start with a choir, or at least that’s what I find myself thinking as I watch Leeds Peoples Choir perform under low light at Wharf Chambers. The choir sings protest songs, songs of liberation and anti-war pieces. Their lack of pretence and unembellished, a capella performce lends an intimate and unique air to proceedings.

The audience are invited to participate in the final piece and a couple of The Wind-Up Birds join them, assembled in front of the stage, for one last performance. There’s a real communal spirit to what they do and it sets up the rest of the evening rather well.

The eclectic nature of tonight’s launch continues with the melancholic stylings of Reaches. The band consists of a singer/guitarist accompanied by a cellist. The songs are deceptively simple paeans to broken hearts. The cello proves to be ideal accompaniment as it empathetically weaves through each piece.

Before things get too sentimental we’re treated to the wonky, angular joys of Racket Ball; two nearly entirely stationary keyboardists and an energetically scattershot singer continuing Leeds great post-punk tradition. As I listen to their immensely entertaining set, I furiously wrack my brains for a musical comparison. There are elements of Devo in the band's performance and undercurrents of The Fall, HMHB and Leeds’ own Delta 5. Ultimately, however, they sound like Racket Ball. And what a wonderful thing that turns out to be.

Having recently returned from London (another album launch, although this is clearly the real one), The Wind-Up Birds appear relaxed and happy to be back on home turf. Opening with the riff-laden, jackhammer of ‘There Will Be No Departures From This Stand’, it’s immediately exciting to hear these songs get their first (In Yorkshire at least) public airing. Much of the new material takes on a more confrontational approach, yet Kroyd’s stand-up-esque banter between songs keeps the balance just right (‘Addis Ababa’ is introduced with a lengthy and amusing explanation of the songs t-shirt based origins).  

The band flit effortlessly between the jagged punk of ‘The Gristle’, the supremely pissed-off ‘Bus Drove Off’ and the powerfully anthemic ‘Two Ambulance Day’. Everything is performed with the casual conviction of a band who really does love what they do. It’s often when the group slow things down that they really hit home, and the hypnotic lilt of ‘A Song Or Two’ proves to be both a surreal and affecting highlight (“I don’t know why Shipley clock tower makes me cry…”).

Kroyd’s distinctive Yorkshire tones and dense lyric sheet, coupled with the band’s ear for brilliantly frazzled, punk-infused indie tunes, continues to be a thoroughly winning combination. They encore with ‘Meet Me at the Depot’ and, as the last notes play and the last call-and-response vocals are sung, the evening appears to have gone all too quickly. Definitely a sign of a job well done.

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