Review: Birdman Rallies’ new album an ‘instant classic’

The Birdman Rallies. (Picture by Jonathan Sillence)
The Birdman Rallies. (Picture by Jonathan Sillence)

By Graham Chalmers

Anybody who harbours any doubts that The Birdman Rallies, from Harrogate, are one of the UK’s finest bands should treat themselves to a download of their new album.

The fact that, for various reasons, every one of Real River’s 12 brilliant tracks was written and played by twinkly-eyed, enigmatic frontman Dan Webster - give or take a bit of cello or trombone - makes this intimate but lush feast of intelligent, quirky pop even more of an achievement.

Whether with or without fellow Rallies’ members Adam Westerman, Ash Johnson and Dave Armstrong, the charming, multi-talented Webster has produced a lot of great music over the years.

The biggest surprise about Real River, which you can find out for yourself by visiting iTunes, is this is an instant classic, easily the greatest thing he has ever done.

The melodic hooks and clever arrangements are expected, what’s different is the expanded musical palette and the new depth of feeling in emotions and lyrics.

Where once it was possible to compare The Birdman Rallies to the mildly psychedelic pastoral pop of, say, Gruff Rhys or Beck, now there’s elements of Tame Impala’s rich synthesized musicality and the sparse hip hop beats of Kanye West – and more.

Sharp but sweet, the album covers all the bases. Whether it’s the baroque hip hop pop of the Vampire Weekend-esque opener Dissolve Into The Black, the slinky, sub-Marc Bolan meets Flaming Lips funk rock of Taj Mahal, the haunting Damon Albarn-esque bluntness of Vampire or the touchingly elegiac closing track Wild Sisters, The Birdman Rallies’ Real River is a thing of dazzling beauty.

Art pop rarely sounded so sublime.