Brendan Kelly & The Wandering Birds is the latest of the many pies Brendan Kelly has his sticky Chicago fingers in. I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever is Kelly’s first wholly solo outing. To say that at least 97% of the punk rock community are salivating over the prospect of a new BK outing would not be an overstatement. In fact, tt might just be the exact percentage to hedge your bets on.
The first thing that strikes me about this record is just how damn curious it is as a release. Stylistically, it seems to skirt around three different areas: One quarter sounding like Lawrence Arms demos, two quarters sounding as if they’d fit perfectly comfortable on a Falcon LP, and the remainder….hell, I still don’t think I’ve figured that part out fully yet. So lets look at this curious chunk in some detail.
The first of the curio-styled tracks the third track, ‘A Man With The Passion Of Tennessee Williams’, which is like nothing I’ve ever heard from the mouth/appendages of BK. The track seems to lend less of an influence from his punk roots and more from a sort of pseudo-industrial background, a la Marylin Manson. This is not the first time something dark as hell has come from an otherwise punk background (the other more recent example also comes from the windy city, with Matt Skiba’s Heavens). Perhaps Brendan’s a big Joy Division fan too? (Though I can’t see that myself).
Another example of this new approach to the usual BK style is ‘Dance Of The Doomed’, which lends its musicality from a very gypsy tinged tradition. If you think along the lines of Gogol Bordello and/or Franz Nicolay you’re going in the right direction. Both these examples, though new paths to tread, seem to work quite effectively so it seems BK is not a “one-trick,” gravelly voiced, pony.
That last point allows us the transition quite smoothly into my next point, the vocals. Here we see a less gritty, almost soulful, BK. Though he still maintains a punk rock tone, and often breaks into the growl that is synonymous with his vocals. Yet even these instances are met with a new found confidence and ability to push the boundaries of his range. In short, he’s a much more accomplished singer on this record.
The album is not without fault, though. The production is a little sketchy, but thankfully this doesn’t take too much from the songs and, as said previously, the album seems to be a mash of various styles. And although an album by no means has to or should stick to one train of thought, the mesh during ‘IRDTLF’can often come across as slightly muddled. With the exception of the more experimental tracks, the majority of the record could be used in Brendan’s other projects, which begs the question, why aren’t they? (Falcon scheduling issues, perhaps? The biggest problem when running a “superband”).
I Rather Die Than Live Forever is a great collection of songs, but that’s what it is, a collection. It just doesn’t really seem enough to justify an entirely new project with this record, but who knows what The Wandering Birds will hold in the future? What I will say is this, it is clear that while making this record Bredan Kelly had one hell of time, and why shouldn’t he? There’s not nearly enough musicians out in the world where their utter contentment, hell, fuck contentment, this is more a feeling of being elated, with every song written and have the honesty to have this show note after note.