There are some bands who you like from the moment you hear them, and some that take a bit longer to get. Unfortunately a lot of the latter category probably fall by the wayside because there simply isn’t enough time to listen to all the amazing music that is out there at the moment, to say nothing of the thousands of classic albums of years gone by.
Les Big Byrd definitely fell into that latter category for me after I’d heard a few tracks shared on Facebook by the Liverpool PsychFest people. I should have had more faith because when I came back across the band I loved what I heard. Actually I can tell you exactly when I got into them. This wasn’t a “where were you when Kennedy was shot moment” rather when, on this album, Les Big Byrd got me. I must have been listening quite passively but 2:39 into the title track there is such a surge a great melodious electronica-led psych music that I had to sit up and pay attention. From there I felt the ripples of appreciation expand throughout the album for me until I now sit here wondering how I managed to resist for so long. I say sit here because the urge to get up and dance is almost overwhelming.
Les Big Byrd was formed in Stockholm by Joakim Åhlund and Frans Johansson a couple of years ago, and features members who have all had experience of being in other bands before. This seems to have enabled the group to hit the ground running with this debut LP release, recorded in collaboration with Anton Newcombe at his Berlin studio, and released on his A Records label.
As you would expect from this They Worshipped Cats is a very well produced album, something evident from the opening bars of the first track ‘Indus Waves’; a track that is in many ways like the album as a whole: it sounds quite simple, but beneath the soporific repetitive keyboard lies quite a complex structure which means that the beauty of the music is not revealed all at once, hence – I guess – my initial reticence.
This does not mean that all the tracks are the same, far from it. ‘Tinnitus Ætérnum’, track two, is a great up tempo number which really draws you in with its repreating coda and, as already mentioned, goes out of its way to encourage syncopated body movement. The title track, has a more studied approach but although it does start slowly has that uplifting moment which completely transforms the song. ‘Back to Bagarmossen’, the rough area of Stockholm where many of the band grew up, is a track that stands out, not only because of the change of groove to something much more vocal- and guitar based, but also because it is a great song which wowed many when the band released an EP of the same name earlier this year.
Overall this is an album that feels like it has its roots in the 80s with all of the things that dates so much of 80s music these days stripped out. Then add in a healthy dose of Spiritualized, and you begin to get the idea. It is more electronica than guitar-based rock, more Krautrock than space-rock, more realistic than abstract, and more groovy than dissonant. In short it is a great psych album which I look forward to dancing too at this year’s Liverpool PsychFest. I’m gonna be knackered.
Finally, a word on the cover; which is a brilliant picture of a Jesus figure destroying 50s spaceships with laser beams coming out of his eyes. What a fantastic image as Les Big Byrd have come to save us: Hallelujah to that!