Without dwelling too much on specifics, it is safe to say that Boxer at Rest, the fifth album from The Bye Bye Blackbirds, is the embodiment of determination in the face of adversity. But as they say, when life gives you lemons, make…well, a tangy, sharp, lush, palette cleansing and refreshing sonic drink. And that is indeed what they have done here.
The secret of The Bye Bye Blackbirds sound seems to be that whilst they walk with the swagger of a rock band, they think with the precision of a pop outfit. And if they seem to tip their hats to a few past, pop greats, they do so whilst stepping confidently into the future, after all, respect where it is due but this is a journey heading in the right direction. It is perhaps best to see the band as being at the cutting edge of a sonic swath that starts cutting pop a new one with the cosmic, country jangle of The Byrds and the intricate pop machinations of The Kinks and which then was kept in momentum by the likes of The Soft Boys hippie-punk shenanigans, The Gin Blossoms college rock cool and even the dB’s kookiness.
And even with such a challenging birthing, this album shimmers with euphoria and optimism, so that even when tackling the tougher subjects, it does so with a glint in its eye and a jaunty spring in its step to help soften the blow. Songs such as So True and War Is Still Hell feel metaphorical but many of the lyrical lines have taken on a lot of relevance in the last few days as I watch a country go on a war footing with itself. If It Get’s Light might be the best song that Midnight Oil never wrote and Baby It’s Still You is a gorgeous and life-affirming collection of deft dynamics, breezy brass and slinky riffs.
I’ve never really known for sure what power-pop is but I’ll take a guess that The Bye Bye Blackbirds are it. Not that it matters, genres are so 90’s anyway. All that matters is that Boxer at Rest is a bit of a corker. You should buy it, you’ll love it.