In an era where a band’s visual presentation is so crucial, London retro-pop outfit Two Wounded Birds is at an advantage thanks to how decidedly attractive the four-piece is. Still, their debut self-titled LP, released on The Drums’ Jacob Graham’s Holiday Friends Recording Company, proves there’s a great band underneath those pouty good looks.
To be deemed a retro band is to be a devotee of musical artifacts like ’60s R&B or New Wave, but Two Wounded Birds’ output is more nuanced than many of their counterparts. The core of the album focuses on the subtler shifts found on tracks like “I’m No Saviour” and “If Only We Remain”. With its gentle, waltzy vibe and shimmery guitars, the former is a perfect fusion of ’50s doo-wop and rock tailor-made for some enchanted prom. Thankfully, the band’s earnest dedication keeps this affair from devolving into an all-out cheese-fest. The latter cut falls more in line with the overdramatic tendencies of the Smiths, complete with wailing vocals and moody guitar. Still, there’s an undercurrent of pure pop bliss, a glowing chorus that adds much-needed sunshine to the otherwise bleak soundscape.
While those core tracks sustain the LP, the effort’s most exciting moments occur when the band really lets go musically. “The Last Supper” is less a song and more an experience. The three-minute instrumental sounds like 1,000 movie soundtracks smooshed together, a country-western chug, the slick groove of surf-rock, and the far out vibe of psychedelia represented in equal parts. What should be overwhelming is an expertly-crafted ride through popular music’s last 50 years.
While “Daddy’s Junk” is lacking in complexity, it makes up for it with wild abandonment. It’s some 100 seconds of unceasing, modernized rockabilly, powered by a hound dog croon, bat-out-of-hell piano, and a car alarm thrown in for good measure. It stands out as the album’s sore thumb, with any artistic merit stripped away in favor of pure rock, a powerful reminder of just what the band is capable of.
Two Wounded Birds have proven to be skilled at referencing music’s past while infusing newer, progressive elements from random genres and movements. That, alongside their aesthetic, is bound to guide their career perpetually forward.
Essential Tracks: “I’m No Saviour”, “The Last Supper”, and “Daddy’s Junk”