Review: BirdPen – On/Off/Safety/Danger

Available initially in download-only form, ‘On/Off/Safety/Danger’ is the debut long-player from BirdPen; one of the more original alternative rock acts around today. Gifted musicians that they are, main songwriters Dave Pen and Mike Bird have produced close to an hour of dense, dark music, which reveals even more of their diverse talents.

Sensibly, they kick off with the excellent lead-off track from ‘Breaking Precedent E.P.’; like Dawn Of The Replicants fuzzed-up rock but with strident vocals instead of the Scottish outfit’s guttural rasp. Yet that song is unrepresentative of the album as a whole as it shifts in to darker, deeper territory. “Moving” isn’t a word I’d normally use to describe BirdPen but there’s a lot of heartache invested in to ‘Airspace’; a relatively straight song by their normally subversive standards.

The grungy ‘Admiral Red’ is another passionately-delivered number whilst “The thought of never seeing you is tearing me apart” is the key line to the spare, eerie and semi-acoustic ‘The Ghost Bird’. On these moments it’s easy to understand why one half of the songwriting team, Dave Penney, is also a member of Archive; a group who made the uneasy transition from edgy trip-hop to sprawling psychedelic rock anthems. Like them, occassionally BirdPen’s music drifts on for too long; ‘Slow’ and ‘The Birds And The Antennas’ segue in to each other without much of a hook to keep either track afloat. Likewise, ‘Thorns’ is an unremarkable strummer that would probably sound great in a live environment but appears laboured on CD. At least they end on a high note, though, with the glistening piano melody and downbeat guitar-led coda of ‘Cold Blood’

Overall, BirdPen have made a successful transition from their immediate EPs to lengthy, introspective songs which suit the album format. ‘On/Off/Safety/Danger’ may require some emotional investment as well as the obvious listening time but it is an ultimately rewarding record.

Web Sites:
BirdPen Official Site
BirdPen MySpace

Further Listening:
Dawn Of The Replicants, My Morning Jacket, Archive, The Hours


1 Response to “Review: BirdPen – On/Off/Safety/Danger”

  1. 1 yohans November 21, 2008 at 12:24 am

    what a great album! catchy yet stands up to repeated playing

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