This record came into my hands in true vagabond style - I won it - by way of Saddle Creek Records and local blog The Vinyl District, who do regular contests and give-aways. Naming Queen II as my favorite "concept album" probably sealed the victory... or not, but nevertheless, this record is a welcome addition to the vinyl collection.
I first heard of The Mynabirds from following the lead singer, Laura Burhenn's, career evolving from local DC band Georgie James to the current band hailing from Omaha. I got to check out The Mynabirds on a recent tour, when they played a stellar set at the Black Cat. Heading into the concert I had no idea what to expect, as I hadn't heard any of the new album yet. Thankfully, the entire band has such a well defined power to their music, that it made for a great concert. Every song came through with a rare clarity -- the guitarist also doubling as the back-up vocalist, could have easily carried the band herself, as well as the drummer keeping the pulse of the music. The interactive ditty "Generals" that counted on the crowd at the show carries through to the recorded version as well. While not in the tune of DC go-go, it does pull from go-go's roots: rhythmic drum beats and call-and-response lyrics -- "to all my sisters-yeah-whatchu want? -- to all my brothers-yeah-whatchu got -- you want to fix it, or fuck it up?" This call-to-action vibe reverberates on most of the tracks on this album. It is less of a call-to-arms, and more of a make-a-change-with-what-you-are-dealt undertone. This is especially heard in the distorted pop-ish chants in "Radiator Sister." Also of note is the stomp-clap beats and tempo change that create "Wolf Mother." Despite the melodramatic lull of the ballad track "Mightier than the Sword," Generals is full of high energy songs that compile a cohesive album to be listened to in full, which, I find, is pretty rare to find these days. Lyrically, Burhenn is looking for leaders to fight against all the wrong doing of our modern and maddening power structure. Saying that we can do better in our corporate structure: quite appropriate for an election year. With this artistic statement, she is being one of those leaders in a formidable fashion.
Oh, and did I mention that it's refreshing to hear such a good female vocalist from time to time? Burhenn's voice is a rich, soulful punch. Her full throated style is captivating regardless of the tempo of the tune. She stands out as a woman in control of the swirling power of her sound. It's a sonic statement and she rides the tidal wave of sound; leading the charge headlong.