Record review: Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward & Fisher – ‘Pigeon Song’

a1195554110_10Inspired by Jon Krakauer’s 1996 non-fiction book ‘Into The Wild’ – based on the much romanticised and idealistic traverses that led to Christopher McCandless’ death (McCandless naively ending up in nebulously unchartered territory with a shotgun, a book on botany, and a flask; fuelled – in part – by familial breakdowns and his infantile admiration of famous scribes Henry David Thoreau, and Jack London) – the song is aptly fitting in its ambiguous and sombreric melancholy.

Hinting from the lyrical prose – which conjures up a candlelit storytelling narrative – there is little doubt that AMWW&F’s single ‘Pigeon Song’ sides with the more romantic gestures of McCandless’ intensely ascetic personality issues, appealing more toward the emotional investment that both, Krakauer and Penn (in his film adaptation) used, to hawk at the deeper philosophical sentiments and the inherent theme that questions individual agency in a post-structural society.

Due to the topical nature; the title of the song and its lyrical context evokes an aerial like perspective; summoning imagery of desolate and untouched landscapes; natural beauty; stubborn crags and precipitous terrain – it is quite apt, considering the underpinnings of the topical story-arc.

With a simplistic rusticity to David Webster’s vocals and the folky companionship provided by a beautifully picked mandolin and strummed guitar. They are juxtaposed in a vis-à-vis fashion; ultimately creating a mix that is bifurcating in scope, inducing a cavernously lifting pre-chorus build-up.

The spaciousness of the stringed instruments allow for a fundamentally simplistic infrastructure, which facilitates in enhancing a vocal array of lovely harmonies (the quintet are knowing for swapping instruments live, and they are all competent vocalists).

Subsequently, when the harmonies kick-in full on, they sound inextricably bound together, dynamically transitioning from the extremely haunting to the emotively corresponding.

Drumming duties are an exercise in maturity, proving that the unassuming is far more fitting within an ensemble piece, as opposed to hubristic dilly-dallying of naively underdeveloped musicianship.

With a solid bass drum smashing a straight four downbeat, complimented by folk-ceilidh inspired drumrolls; the fundamental backbone is dutifully kept in place.

Brevity and emotional lyricism lies at the heart of ‘Pigeon Song’, with the chorus packing-a-punch in its imbibed requisitioned sing-along-around-the-camp-fire ethos; Webster singing the tentatively cautious “you will find your way back home”, which becomes a major hook within copious clasps of vocal genuity (understandably a fan favourite played at the end of their live sets).

The concluding part of the journey pays off due to the restrained build-up throughout the song with Webster belting out: “brothers old and brothers new; I don’t think I’ll be seeing you for a while,” hinting in trepidation, that a familial return of the traditional ilk is seemingly unlikely.

Culminating in an unabashedly spent ‘double-stick-snare-drum-hit’ – played off-beat – with a simultaneously onomatopoeic bellowing from Webster and co  – allowing for an explosively improvisational Neil-Young-Dead-Man-esque, distorted guitar; with the reverb cranked up – passed itself by date – intruding with its olfactory decrepitness, and smothering any breathing space that was previously left available in the mix.

With the sound of the harmonica in flux, battling it out with a competitive furor – challenging to be heard among the solid rhythms and electric reverberations of the guitar – it manages well, in its endeavors and finds a compromised nestling spot.

It’s a triumphant piece of music from talented five-piece multi instrumentalists, who have clearly established that, simplicity is key in creating an intense yet melodically driven tune with infectious vocal hooks.

Modesty sounds an easy given, but in an ego-driven domain, sometimes it is a task that leaves bands waning.

Superb.

Words: Derek Robertson

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