When I watch documentaries about a band or read an article about their beginning, I always get a bit jealous. What an experience, to have been around as Blur started their ascent, or to have been in the crowd when Jack White strapped on his guitar for his first performance. That chance to see a group in its origins, just as they are on the cusp of something great. I think that’s why I’m so protective of Jealous Of The Birds. Now I feel like I’ve got a chance to experience what its like for myself. And it’s magic.
Everyone’s favourite musical scarecrows return with their newest EP Wisdom Teeth. The result of a hard years graft that saw them embark on their first UK wide tour, their latest release is the fruit born of experience and maturation. And my word it shows. The only constant throughout is the creaky skylark cry of frontman Naomi Hamilton, all silky intonation and imaginative lyricism. The rest of the sound has trappings from such a lexicon of influences, that to try and typify WT into a genre seems absurd (unless you just want to label it ‘class’). The effortless nature with which Hamilton and co. pluck the best from their musical descendants and give it its own kaleidoscopic twist is a sight to behold.
Take the soaring slow thunder of opener Marrow for example. A simple, rustic acoustic strumming begins proceedings and leads into a sweeping maize field chorus. “Oh to have a distilled sense of sensing, Does the banshee get tired of lamenting” muses Hamilton, part rocker, part poet, part philosophiser. And while the warm waves of Marrow are inspiring, they are entirely separate from the drizzling intellectual gloom of New York Has A Lump In Her Throat. The only indication that its the same band is the stunning lyrical landscapes. More than once, Hamilton dips her brush into the easel of jargon and stains the blank canvas of the imagination, using broad streaks for emotion and delicate airbrushing for introspection. That’s the beauty of WT, more so than other releases by their peers, it will take you as far as you wish it to. The interpretations are endless.
No track illustrates this better than the following number ‘New York Has A Lump In Her Throat’, whose embers are fanned into a roaring flame of ponderment and reflection. Opening with a gentle murk and a rhythmic vibe that scream ‘fear the reaper,’ New York… is a view into the psyche of Hamilton mid-creative process. The mid-song skit, where she contemplates the creation of music and the role of the artist, has a feeling akin being let in on a family secret, and is set against a backdrop of richter scale riffs that bring to mind the image of synapses firing off in the brain. A name drop of Benzaiten is no waffled language either, as the presence of the Shinto goddess of flow is telling reminder of who you are listening to. Indeed, there is a chaotic symmetry to JOTB’s music that the goddess would approve of, a constant creative movement consisting of cascading purples and explosive scarlets, guided by the delicate paw of Hamilton.
The album continues much as it began. Blue Eye, the best number on the album (you can read my full thoughts here) with its toothsome funk, bohemian groove and world building riffs is an absolute winner, while the moonbeam ballad of Kosiskelu and the biting femininity of Clemintina show a side previously unseen, one the leans towards the galactic heart of Arctic Monkeys AM, all starlight and knowing, amorous glances.
The arrival of your own wisdom teeth is telling of many things. An often painful experience, it is also a sign of maturity, of growing into your own body, and that’s exactly what has happened with Jealous Of The Birds. Their EP may have elements of pain and longing, but also a calm serenity and joyful exuberance that accompanies a confident maturity. A stunning victory for a band with the world at its fingertips (crushed peach and linen).