04 April 2006

Birdland - Hollow Heart

LAZY13 (LAZY13T 12")

Birdland were a breakneck amphetamine firecracker of a band. Four guys from the English midlands with peroxide bobbed hair, shrill, pacey, feedback sodden yet melodic, like Psychocandy on 78rpm.

A big influence on the early Manic Strret Preachers, their 1989 debut single Hollow Heart blazed so bright. The 12" had three songs on the A-side, all crashing into each other in a wail of feedback, no gaps. And that's exactly how they played it live.

I saw this band devotionally. I first went cos a friend recommended it and you got a free live LP. What a great idea! In the days before burnable CDs, bands just did not give away their music at gigs. Birdland figured that to press up a one-sided vinyl LP with no outer sleeve was cheap, if it's live there's no recording costs, and it'd surely bring enough extra punters in to cover its costs. And yet it's not a con-gimmick, everyone gets something worthwhile. It worked on me.

God, they were fucking incredible. Fast and guitarry, taking punk speed, 60s Stones cocksure energy, Patti Smith art-primal attitude, and shooting out these white hot shards of kinetic force with something soaring and pop in there.

The later singles had their merits - good songs and a lot of energy - but sounded somewhat two dimensional. There was a full-surround fury to the live shows that only the tracks on Hollow Heart and its follow up Paradise get close to.

It's like when you listen to Merseybeat bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers or Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and they all sound so twee, but it doesn't take a big effort to mentally scrub them of their record company gloss and put them in leather jackets belting out rock n roll to a sweaty walled Cavern and see what the fuss was about.

When Birdland's album came out I hitch hiked round Britain following the tour, 13 gigs in 15 days. Every one amazing, though often radically different vibes. Sometimes an hour and a half and five triumphant encores. Sometimes the gear goes wrong ten minutes in and they'd smash everything up and leg it.

The first 10,000 copies of the album, incidentally, came on white vinyl, white label, in a plain white sleeve with 'BIRDLAND' printed on the front in white (you have to tilt it to the light to read it). Oh fucking yes. They were great for that sort of thing - singles coming with a limited edition 4-track EP version with posters and a badge and what have you.

No band can sustain such power and intensity for long, so we can't really lament their passing. We should just be glad that we have those blinding screaming early singles like Fuzzbox's XX Sex or Birdland's labelmates The Primitives' Stop Killing Me.

Birdland hit that thing in a way that no other band ever quite did. Still sounds so incredibly exciting and explosive, an amphetamine pessary of a record.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]


anthonyqkiernan said...

Nice piece. You nearly made me re-evaluate this lot.

Loki said...

birdland... God...never figured we'd hear from thoe guys again.. last thing i knew they were in hairnets working in KFC and talking bout a comeback single to be released on the aniversary of Che Guevara's death...

Anonymous said...

Ah - Birdland. I loved them. When the first 12" came out I traced it with some sort of special pen to make my own t-shirt. I got no end of comments asking where they could be bought...

Anonymous said...

Birdland....Manchester International 1? 1988? We had ticket numbers 1 and 2 and there were 12 people in the audiance....what a night !!!!

Anonymous said...

my god, that takes me back! I don't think I've heard that since I left school! Great track - cheers

Anonymous said...

Great article, though would just like to add that in addition to Hollow Heart and Paradise, the other single that came close to the live experience is RocknRollnigger.
I got the live album, and the white one too. Sheffield, Leeds, Doncaster all great gigs, po-going with the best of them.
Fantastic memories.

Sazzied2 said...

Brilliant! If anyone is interested, they're coming back soon... September hopefully... Go to the Facebook page for more info! :-D

merrick said...

Sazzied2, which facebook page? there are loads of pages for things called Birdland!

Anonymous said...