Birds Of Tokyo
Broken Strings


4.0
excellent

Review

by David James Young USER (181 Reviews)
February 15th, 2010 | 14 replies | 8,043 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ian Kenny and friends leave the pub early for a night at the opera. Excellence ensues.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

“Welcome to one of the coolest things we’ve ever done as a band,” says an enthusiastic Ian Kenny to an even more enthusiastic audience. He’s on stage with one of his two noteworthy bands, Birds of Tokyo, yet the setting couldn’t be more different to where and how the band normally plays. He’s surrounded by acoustic guitars, a grand piano and a string quartet. Welcome to Broken Strings, where Kenny and co. have gone beyond the call of MTV Unplugged and attempted complete re-workings of their music in this setting. For those of us not lucky enough to have caught the tour, the two-disc recording has now surfaced. Broken Strings is an impressive display of what the group is capable of when thrown into a musical deep end, with each of the two sets on disc putting together the pieces of a very worthwhile tour.

Commencing with a string quartet medley of the band’s best-known songs, the band emerges to Universes’ “Armour for Liars”, which sounds marvellous with swelling strings and big three-part harmonies weaving through the hook. The basic premise is to take the band’s music and attempt to reinterpret them as fitting to their new environment. No big rock moments are allowed within the premises – even drummer Adam Weston, normally a powerhouse behind the kit, shows incredible restraint in his playing. When it comes down to it, Broken Strings is all a matter of streamlining these big, fearless rock songs into something that is notably more delicate and careful in its arrangement.

There’s a selection of songs that work in the band’s favour in order to turn into Broken Strings versions – the 5/4 ballad “The Baker’s Son” sounds even greater with the aid of the string quartet; and Universes closer “Medicine” is a soaring triumph, presenting what is possibly Kenny’s finest moment on the recording. Early hit “Wayside” is also a great workout for Kenny’s powerful, emotive vocals, as well as invaluable pianist Glenn Sarangpany. There’s a lot more in the band’s arsenal, however, that’s a little more difficult to rework.

They’re not always as successful as they could be, either – “Violet”, for all of its lovely strings, doesn’t stray very far from its original inception; and “Black Sheets” ends up fairly messy and half-baked in comparison to the other tracks. It’s when and how the band overcomes the challenge, however, that makes Broken Strings so interesting. “Wild Eyed Boy”, one of the “big three” singles from Universes, is here reinvented with a skip in its step and clever use of plucked violin. “Head In My Hands” brings in a ukulele to the fray with charming results, and the swaying “Rest Here My Brother” is arguably the best version of any of the tracks to be featured in the setlist lifeted from 2007’s Day One record. From Kenny’s vocal aerobics to Adam Spark’s dark-and-light acoustic strums, the rendition is a triumphant experiment that emphasises everything that the tour itself is about.

Also of significant note is the sole cover of the performance – Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Normally a cause for gospel-choir funk and over-the-top soulful vocal solos, BoT has none of it here. Conversely, Spark simply plays the chords quietly, with relatively little groove to speak of. Meanwhile, Kenny delivers the vocals in his rarely heard lower range, slowly dissecting the words of the song with cold, distant emotion. Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest gambles the band takes, and it pays off in truckloads if the huge applause at the end is anything to go by.

A must for fans and a possible conversion point for those unconvinced of the Birds’ talent, Broken Strings is a success for all involved. It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into the new sounds that the Birds expand their wingspan over, and the plumage looks finer than ever as a result of it. Now go and listen to it before any more atrocious bird-related metaphors come flying at you.



Recent reviews by this author
The Presets PacificaLast Dinosaurs In A Million Years
Every Time I Die Ex LivesDarren Hayes Secret Codes and Battleships
Wanda Jackson The Party Ain't OverPhrase Babylon
user ratings (25)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Eclectic
February 15th 2010



3302 Comments


Great review, pos'd

I can't wait to hear this, it sounds fucking awesome

cb123
February 15th 2010



1962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

just had a listen to this n its great!!!! kenny is my favourite vocalist by a long long way i think, great review to.

Vooligan
February 15th 2010



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Awesome work as per usual, David. Can't believe you didn't mention Silhouettic though, was my favourite by far. Also, how they managed to improve Russian Roulette is beyond me, but they did. It fucking rocks.
Agree that a couple of the songs don't really work though.

As a side note, the DVD is fucking cool as well. Some very funny footage on there.

AtavanHalen
February 15th 2010



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I only have the two CDs, I don't have the DVD. Would like to see it, though.

Douglas
February 15th 2010



8984 Comments


This is going to be monumental, can't wait to listen

Vooligan
February 15th 2010



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

You should check it out, David.

Yeah you'll love this, Dougie. It's right up your alley.

Jim
February 15th 2010



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

have to get this for real

Awesomesauce
February 15th 2010



1083 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Good review as always. I really don't like this band though, and this record didn't swing my stance whatsoever. It almost put me to sleep.

Eclectic
February 15th 2010



3302 Comments


^Now that's a different opinion, why don't you like them?

Awesomesauce
February 17th 2010



1083 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

They just seem like karnivool-lite to me. Kenny has a great voice but his lyrics are pretty sub-par and I think this really shows with his birds of tokyo stuff. I don't really find the music that appealing either. Don't get me wrong, I think they're very talented musicians in their own rights, but I don't think they're really that cohisive as a unit. That, combined with the fact that there are a LOT of really great Aussie bands out there that are far superior, yet get nowhere near the exposure and backing that this band does purely because Kenny is in Karnivool. But hey, that's how popular music works and has always worked and it's not going to change because one ugly guy from Melbourne doesn't like it!

Eclectic
February 17th 2010



3302 Comments


I see your point, though I disagree. If you want good lyrics try "Armour For Liars" or perhaps "Medicine", they're decent enough. As for the cohesive unit thing, I actually think they work really well together. However, I do agree with the exposure idea, but that happens with so many more bands on so many levels including Karnivool (AC/DC vs. Karnivool, who do you think should have won the ARIA for best rock album?). Like I said though I see your point and I respect it.

Awesomesauce
February 17th 2010



1083 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah for sure. On the flip side, I can see why they are popular, and would far rather hear these guys on the radio than a lot of other crap that's been getting flogged mercilessly of late. I guess their stuff just doesn't really connect on the personal level for me.

Eclectic
February 18th 2010



3302 Comments


Yeah, that's understandable.
Ugh, my local radio station plays "Urban" 50% of the time, every second song is either Chris Brown or some shite like that.

WhiteNoise
July 21st 2010



2877 Comments


Some of the tracks here just blow me away. You definitley get more out of the record if your familiar with the songs, some of the reworking is just incredible. I'm gonna have to invest into this album haha

Digging: Eagulls - Eagulls



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy