13 November, 2013 in Music Reviews
The British guitar band’s fan-funded third album, drawing on the best of 70s rock from both sides of the Atlantic
ailing from Bedford, The Whybirds first appeared in 2007 with an alt-country sound that belied their Home County origins, and when sophomore album Cold Blue Sky received critical acclaim, it appeared to be the start of big things for the four-piece. That is until bassist and songwriting linchpin Taff Thatcher stepped away the band, leaving the remaining three with a make-or-break decision. Luckily for us, they took the gamble and stuck together, continuing to share songwriting responsibilities as a trio, and — with the help of their loyal fanbase — raised the funds and creative impetuous to record A Little Blood.
So, officially, this is their third LP as The Whybirds, but it may as well be their debut, as the fresh start and back-against-the-wall mentality appears to have reinvigorated the band. From the opening feedback-drenched power chord of Cheating Heart, and throughout ‘side A’, the three songwriters draw on their English roots, exuding the primitive swagger and vitriol of early Oasis and The Jam. In fact Weller’s influence can be heard elsewhere in the acerbic title track and Kick — a jangling Britpop song with a guitar arpeggio that a Suede-era Bernard Butler might’ve been proud of.
More classic British rock can be found in the shape of Floyd-meets-Wings More Than He Could Stand and jazzy Beatle-esque Never Let You Go. But the unequivocal highlight is lead single The Cure that starts by recalling the piano riff of The Charlatans’ One To Another and the chunky guitar fuzz of The Black Keys, before flourishing into a triumphant sing-a-long chorus.
There are still moments when the Bedfordshire hillbillies drop back to familiar Stars and Stripes-waving territory, as in the Springsteen/Petty inflected Before I Let You Down, Stax-flavoured The Band Counts Four and Pearl Jam-my Til The Storm Has Gone with a passionately drawled “I’ll be here for you darlin’” refrain. Yeah, the vocals are regularly delivered with an American accent, and yeah, things get a little gushing at times, especially when Make It Through Tonight veers a little too close to Bon Jovi, but the overriding sentiment throughout is genuine appreciation rather than shallow mimicry.
Although drawing on some bitter experiences, there’s very little despair to be found in the music. Lyrically, there’s evidence of three troubled young men who are struggling to “make it on our own”, but musically A Little Blood is an infectiously optimistic and confident record that rewards repeated listens. The Whybirds, and their fans, should be very proud that they ‘made it’.
Verdict: Gratifying Anglo-American classic rock, chiseled with swagger and songwriting prowess
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