BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
There are times in life when it is all about atmosphere. The strange, expansive, sometimes challenging Psychic Surgery from the band Bloodbirds is indeed one of those times. Constructing unforgettable or quirky songs around ominous, unsettling quakes and the creepier corners of pop has been the hallmark of many in rock, especially the band’s obvious influences Joy Division and Bauhaus, and Bloodbirds hit that nail square on it’s dark, depressed head.
Springing up from the sometimes drought ravaged fields of creativity that is the Midwest, the trio have shaped a beautifully unnerving album, crafting songs that shoot straight for your inner core, challenging the listener to keep up the pace, speeding faster and faster toward oblivion, stopping just short of the ragged edges of your last good nerve.
Formed by Mike and Brooke Tuley, formerly of Ad Astra Arkestra and Anna St. Louis of Hairy Belafonte, Bloodbirds is a band of extremes and Surgery is an album of layers. Layered subject matter, layered tones, distortion, feedback and drums all stacked so high upon themselves that it is hard to fathom that a lowly trio from Kansas wove this tapestry of sound.
Mike Tuley’s guitar approach, especially on “Bad Animal” and the record’s title track is a Frankenstein’s Monster of flavors. Goth, new wave, no wave, metal, jazz, U2’s The Edge, the one-two punch of Ranaldo and Moore of Sonic Youth, Glenn Branca, Kevin Shields, the Raveonettes’ Sune Wagner and the late great Frank Zappa, all lurk between the frets, subtle beauty peeking out from behind psych driven power.
The tone for Psychic Surgery is set with the opener “Divorce Sea” and hangs in through the perfect ending of “Time Battles.” This is a dark, moody record that can be soul shattering at times but is a gift for those that stick it out. It is an assault on the senses that you are happy to receive. In the wrong hands, an album of this density could be easily lost, swallowed up by its own extremes and excesses. However, thanks to the rock solid bass work of Brooke Tuley and consistently great drumming St. Louis throughout, Mike is allowed to run for the fringes, blasting away at the world while Brooke and Anna expertly keep everything from blowing apart.
Psychic Surgery tips its hat to the weird, the strange, to places some musicians fear to tread. Musically, its explosive, a storm of paranoid pop fueled by Mike’s expansive guitar work, his wife’s growling, unrelenting bass and the no reservations playing of Anna St. Louis. The album has the potential to blow a fuse or two in your melon; the overflow of sound and the push of overdrive will either send you to the exits or take you to new, exciting places. It all depends on your constitution.
If you are looking for Top 40 grooves, these ain’t the Birds for you. However, if you are a distortion junkie, value experimentation with your music and aren’t deterred by a little tinnitus, Psychic Surgery is a no brainer.
DOWNLOAD: “Psychic Surgery” “Patterned Sky” “Estimation is An Important Skill”