Back to "free for all"

Carol Keogh

This might take a while to figure out, now... how a record like this
actually works... seeping into the consciousness like a slow fever, the
songs as familiar and yet unfeasibly slippery as the individual listener's
intimate memories. 'For The Birds' is like a book of old photographs, where
the images contained within are too personal to be opened in public. On
first listen it sends out a fragile invitation. After a few listen-throughs,
that fragility gives way to warm intrigue - the trumpeting majesty of 'So
What Happens...' quieting to the lush, romantic sway of 'Headlong': climbing
then to the great redeemer that is 'The Early Bird'. 'Santa Maria' canters
into the fray with a deceptively easy dub-style bass-line, Hansard's vocal a
heartscalding near-whisper 'why did you have to burn?' Deceptive because of
the scarred metal coda -a chime of guitars that intuitively expresses the
untimely denouement of its subject, the painter Egon Schiele, from Spanish
Influenza in all its passion and pain; anguish and ecstasy - a precise
enigma of a song.

The last of these sentient snapshots, 'Mighty Sword', is the one that
induces a proud smile and a teary swelling in the throat simultaneously. You
know what I mean here because we all have (at least) one. A verse that
speaks of emotional insecurities and perhaps even unspoken love, 'I may not
know you for as long as forever exists', but then the countrified chorus,
rolling out like something from the Stones - a courageously defiant
declaration of intent - 'We wield a mighty sword'. An untitled 'hidden'
track crashes back in after several minutes to close the album. And then,
when the picture-book is closed and we are left a shadowy memory of the
thing we can be grateful for the chance to hold it dear, to be re-opened
from time to time. Perhaps we'll even pass it on to our grandchildren.