With a name that is meant to shock, the theatrical side of Birdeatsbaby is never far away in tales of seediness and the dimly lit underbelly of life, exposed for all to see. This is a band that takes a number of influences from outside the prog sphere to create something that fits well within it – if on the fringes. There’s the dark piano pop of Tori Amos or Kate Bush, the orchestral rock of Muse and vaudeville style akin to Dresden Dolls, all swept up in a quartet from Brighton
Tanta Furia (well named from the Spanish for ‘So Much Fury’) is the fourth album from Birdeatsbaby, a band that I have not come across before, perhaps not surprisingly given that the circles that they move in are more of the pop/indie variety, but that would be no reason to ignore the quality of this release. Having formed in 2008 the band have built a reputation for their visual theatricality live. Their videos have garnered much publicity, such as The Trouble which sets out their Dark Cabaret style led by singer and pianist Mishkin Fitzgerald.
The band have toured extensively and received rave press, but it is only now that they seem to be ever so slightly courting the prog market. And, as stated, it’s a good fit. The songs are exquisitely dark, full of pointed words and open expressions of emotion that appeals to a particularly loyal fan base that has responded generously to several successful crowd-funding campaigns, including for Tanta Furia.
This album is a quality art rock and from the off the strings of Hana Piranha (quite possibly not her real name!) make an impact and focus the ears. Likewise Fitzgerald’s piano, the widescreen approach to songs such as In Spite of You and Temple are very Muse. Deathbed Confession takes this and adds massed choirs of Queen proportions while Part of Me, wherein the ‘C’ Bomb is righteously dropped to pointed effect, draws on the Dresden Dolls’ vaudevillian delivery and Scars deploys Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting drum drive.
Elliott could be something that Half Past Four might have come up with, the violin ensuring that this quirky tale of weirdness and demise by gin stays fully within the Birdeatsbaby remit. Spit works a treat, the punk edge of the verse set against a more cultured chorus, Fitzgerald putting in a fine shift at the coalface. Gary Mitchell does sound work on both bass and guitar, the buzziness of the latter working in combination with a visceral violin tone. A complete tonal shift, Mary sees Fitzgerald declaiming beautifully over sparse piano and drone violin, the song swelling into a wonderfully soulful choral tour de force. Fitzgerald certainly has the pipes to pull this off with style as she leads the voices. Bones of God carries the quasi-religious thrust further, the unappealing ugliness of organised religion turned into a gorgeous piano-led ballad of which Tori Amos would be proud.
The title track takes an earthier approach with influences from Eastern European folk given a punk injection to underline the fury of the title. Another shift marks the magical conclusion of a stunningly good album as Mishkin performs a chameleon-like change to a bluesy and soulful tone, a slow-burn backing controlled by the quiet momentum of Forbes Coleman’s drums as violins soar in the background. The words may be textured with grubby unwholesomeness and smeared with indignity but the music is an uplifting swell, the arrangement of this piece in particular making full use of the dynamics at the band’s disposal.
The success of Tanta Furia lies in the fact that the influences are taken and moulded into a whole that is fully representative of the band as they now stand. This is not pastiche but a lovingly detailed and well crafted album of songs that work well as a whole and are jam-packed with noteworthy moments and choruses that burrow into the psyche. It’s a very appealing thing that has a punky bang and crash where needed but is not afraid of displaying its more sophisticated charms.
Overall Tanta Furia is a far more entertaining release than many more overtly prog things that I get to review, and for that I salute them. With songs that generally stick to the 4 to 5 minute limit they have grabbed the fun factor by the scruff and made it dance to their tune, giving it a swift kick in the arse now and then to keep it in line.
Salmacis be damned, do yourself a favour and cleanse yourself at The Fountain of Accessible Popular Darkness.
01. In Spite Of You (5:36)
02. Part Of Me (3:06)
03. Scars (4:27)
04. Deathbed Confession (4:20)
05. Temple (3:52)
06. Elliot (3:45)
07. Spit (3:15)
08. Mary (4:56)
09. Bones Of God (4:08)
10. Tanta Furia (4:13)
11. Eulogy (5:25)
Total time – 47:12
Mishkin Fitzgerald – Lead Vocal, Piano, Accordian
Forbes Coleman – Drums, Programming, Synths, Backing Vocals
Gary Mitchell – Guitar, Bass, Double Bass, Backing Vocals
Hana Piranha – Violin, Cello, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Dead Round Eyes Records
Date of Release: 7th November 2016