A week ago we music journalists received something of a mysterious email, promising a special Birds of Tokyo performance in Sydney. The venue and details would be revealed on the day, but we were promised the intimate show would be our first chance to hear some of the Australian rock group’s latest material. This morning, to a select group of fans and industry alike, the venue of Carriageworks was revealed and we headed in after work to catch the band in action.
On a bespoke stage with a film crew in place to capture every moment of the special show, a spooky, ambient score played as we entered the room. The stage set up like mountains, with the promise of a light show production that far outweighed what you’d normally see in a room of this size. And indeed it was, with a the mountains turning into an LED show amplified by a projection.
From the minute they walked out, it became clear that they wanted to make a statement with this show: their new music is louder, and harder than anything we’ve heard in years. Think about some of Tool’s heaviest and most accessible moments and you’ll find a taste of the sound it seems the Tokyo boys are going for with their new material. Frontman Ian Kenny called the change of direction “deliberate”, and fans would note that it takes the band back to some of their earliest material, while still feeling like an evolution on some of the more commercial music they had pumped out in recent years. Long term fans of the band should particularly love it, while they should still hold onto those newer fans. They just may have needed heavier duty ear plugs.
The second song of the set, “Brace”, is the album’s title track, and sounds like a hit. “We’re seconds away from critical retribution”, Kenny muses – a word I choose with purpose as the anthemic song felt like some of the best moments of Muse, with everything you love about the Birds. On the themes of the new material, Kenny said to the packed room, “We feel like we’re doing something so right for us at the moment. There’s so much shit happening at the moment, we feel like we’ve got to say our part.” Nowhere was this more apparent than in “Empire”, with lyrics like “every empire has to fall… Let’s bring it on down… Come on, be reckless with me I beg you”.
“Discoloured” followed, with a surprise guest from Hayley Mary of The Jezabels, who features on the track, and then “Above Below”. Kenny provided some insight into the tracks, saying how “Catastrophe” was inspired by the experience of watching the 6pm news every night. The synth driven “Mercy Arms” ended the six song set, with the catchy repetition of “I Keep The Radio On” pulsating underneath Kenny’s powerful vocals and that intense kick drum, and some stand out lyrics – “I can feel the frustration swim in your blood”. The track was an epic set closer to say the least, from an album that it set to be their most powerful to date.
Kenny called the direction they went down with Brace “dystopic… it’s quite bleak and desperate”, which might sound depressing, but the frontman also said “It’s such a great time to be in this band right now,” citing the opportunity they have to make the music they want to, on the subjects they want to tackle. As such, it seems to be a great time to be a fan of the band, too.
Brace will be released later in the year.