This autumn seasoned, Alt Rock, Prog Electronic rockers Birdpen are releasing their fifth studio album “There’s Something Wrong with Everything”. The album is the follow up to 2016’s “O Mighty Vision”. The new release is loaded with bittersweet insights into where the world finds itself almost two decades into the new millennia. Those insights are set to their unique sonic blend. The duo that makes up Birdpen has throughout their consortium created thought-provoking tunes that engage as they look to inform.
Birdpen was founded in 2003 in Southampton, United Kingdom. The duo that comprises the band is singer-songwriter Dave Pen, also the frontman for Archive, and guitarist, keyboardist Mike Bird. The band began with a series of EP’s and on to full-length recordings. In 2012, their album Global Lows was nominated Best European Independent Album at the Impala Awards. They also have toured extensively throughout Europe gaining a dedicated following with their amalgam of Krautrock, rolling baselines and distorted psychedelic guitars. They are often mentioned in the same breath as bands like Deerhunter, Hookworms and Suuns.
There’s Something Wrong with Everything displays Birdpen’s singular ability to deliver musically energetic and bright sonics with delightful vocals that belie the dystopic environment created by the venom of the lyrics. A good characterization is Muse meets Radiohead. The album begins with This Is Your Life and a slab of celestial ambient sounds delivering an icy chill. The lyrics point out that our time on earth is finite and despairs in how much of life is wasted on the unimportant. Even though the instrumentation is non-confrontational there is an unsettling menace that exists throughout the song.
The title track, There’s Something Wrong with Everything provides an impressive gritty guitar. The song is loaded with drama and projected the idea that just because you're paranoid it doesn’t mean they are not out to get you. The track is an earworm that will not let go and haunts you, demanding repeated listens. Eye in the Sky as you might imagine from the title continues the free-ranging paranoia that is rife throughout the release. The jaunty instrumentation loaded with a staccato guitar is perfectly juxtaposed against the sinister big brother feeling conveyed by the lyrics. The song echoes bands like TV on the Radio and Echo and the Bunnymen. The stunning Star of the Half Time Show is hypnotic and dreamy as it is filled with shimmering pianos, bleating synths and swirling guitars that twist and turn throughout the track.
The second half of the album contains Birdpen’s strongest works on the release. The End is On TV utilizes a disembodied vocal to question if we can continue at the mad level the world is proceeding upon or if it will inevitably implode. The insistent bass throb delivers the chagrin of the theme conjuring a dystopic dread. Brainwash is an interlude of sorts but just as disturbing as many of the other songs with an ambiguous leader at a rally ranting to his followers. The song channels Manic Street Preachers at their most dark and brooding. The album seems to take a volte-face with the track Oh So Happy but don’t be fooled by the buzzsaw guitars and bouncy energy. The track castigates society for asking the individual to be happy all the time and hides the sadness and frustrations of life. Society is portrayed as demanding the individual conform, even if it means taking your Prozac and put on a happy face. This is a keeper of a track and is akin to Devo marrying Arcade Fire.
Good News turns to a ballad approach as it examines the dishonesty of our leaders. It also points out that the public demands good news over being told the truth, and ponders who bears the most blame for the cracks being papered over as we race down the path to oblivion. The sonics are inspired and deeply moving and come off soothing rather than filled with vitriol. The final track, Natural Rewards offers a solution of sorts pointing out that nature is our ultimate reward, not materialism or what society measures as success. Birdpen utilizes an engaging Smiths/REM jangly guitar to get their final message across while closing out a noteworthy release.
Birdpen with There’s Something Wrong with Everything definitely showcases their strengths. The songwriting is impeccable and the sonics surrounding their timely rebuke only enhance the impact of their message. The release is engaging and the quality is consistent. My recommendation for Alternative aficionados is if you have not encountered Birdpen you have a treat in store checking out this release. Birdpen might reside on a less trodden path but deliver thought-provoking narratives that are enmeshed with alluring sonics and worth seeking out.