The Walls – Bird in a Cage EP

January 01, 1970

( Motion)


Irish tune-machines The Walls begs the question: Why are
there so many brilliant but unsung guitar-pop bands? If a group consistently
churns out batch after batch of exquisitely crafted songs, shouldn’t they be
more than a happy discovery in cut-out bins, obscure blogs and buddies’
shelves/external hard drives?


Consider these acts that you might’ve encountered in your
actual or virtual crate-digging: Best Kissers in the World, Miles, the Posies, Buffalo
Tom, The Figgs, Actionslacks, Too Much Joy, The Refreshments, The Caulfields,
Gigolo Aunts, Nada Surf, Muzzle. Almost all of them have foamy-mouthed devotees
that clutch their catalogs to their chests and seek out live albums, soundtrack
appearances, bootlegs, elder bands and post-mortem projects with gluttonous
zeal because their albums are opulent feasts of ambrosial ear candy that,
thematically, are the soundtrack to our lives. Lesser bands have more money and
fame, with far less quality output, while these guys are consigned to cult
status that barely, if at all, sustains them.


It’s a shame. But it’s also wonderful to discover them
retroactively. When that one album you found turns out to be just a taste of a
lengthy discography – and then it branches off into the rarities and recent
work above, it’s your birthday. Well, blow out the candles: here’s The Walls.


Brothers Steve and Joe Wall formed the band coming out of
The Stunning, a similar-sounding band that had a few hits in the UK and is, for
their fans, the sort of band that belongs in the aforementioned list and is,
for The Walls, that sought-after elder band. In fact, fan demand resulted in
two reissued albums (1990’s Paradise in
the Picturehouse
in 2003; 1993’s live Tightrope in 2006) and a tour. This, while The Walls dropped a succession of equally
killer singles, EPs and albums starting in 1999, and played with the likes of
U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Now, in 2011, The Walls are ramping up to their third LP, Stop the Lights. This EP is an advance
taste, at least with the title track and “All A Blur,” but it’s a stellar
effort in its own right. “Bird in a Cage” is a poignant anthem in which the
brothers jettison their pasts and pull off a common trick in guitar-pop
song-centric bands’ bags. By juxtaposing wistful lyrics and upbeat, bouncy
sounds, they bring up memories that get shaken around in our bobbing heads,
amounting to a sort of joyful therapy.


Songs like these elicit devotion in an audience, and the
Walls have an almost endless supply. Like “Bird in a Cage,” “Chrome Heart” likewise
looks back at a failed relationship over hooky guitar and word lines, producing
the same effect. They’re no-brainers for the setlist in perpetuity. Then again,
the moodier acoustic number “All A Blur,” with its pastoral instrumentation –
and another sing-along chorus, is just as ripe for fan drool.


There are, however, a couple of strange spots on the EP.
First is the oddball instrumental “The Big Freeze,” which could be an entirely
different band but for the synthesizer through-lines that relate it to the
other tracks. The track cops intro tones from “Walk on the Wild Side” before
melting into a neo-eighties John Hughes film score particularly suited to the
directors’ go-to montage, where the characters mope and pose while
contemplating their conflict. After several listens, the song reveals a
thematic through-line in that, despite its wordlessness, it has the same reflective


The only misstep is that track five is a radio edit regurge
of “Bird in a Cage.” Why bands bother to include such filler is a mystery – its
place is on the radio (if it even gets there in the first place). But taken as
a reprise, or even a coda, it works, providing a satisfying conclusion to what
is ultimately a sublime listening experience. 


in a Cage,” “Chrome Heart,” “The Big Freeze” RANDY HARWARD



(Full disclosure: The
Walls are signed to Second Motion Records, BLURT’s parent company.)



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