There is a fine line, we are often told, between madness and genius. A line that is easily crossed and that by association means that when confronted by what many consider to be genius, there is likely to be an equal number of people scratching their heads saying ‘I don’t get it”.
When it comes to Norwich act Birds Of Hell, there are a lot of people in the Fine City you will tell you it is genius. Until recently, we’ve found ourselves more in the “I don’t get it” camp. We know so many people who would sing the praises of former Sargasso Trio member Pete Murdoch and his experimental, confessional and remarkable alter ego. We know people who have been reduced to tears by the emotional depth of his live performances, yet for some reason it just never landed with us.
His latest release, “Astronomy Programmes”, is quite frankly, fucking brilliant.
Granted, his recent increased use of electronica in his music may have something to do with our new found love for Birds of Hell, though we’ve also been wandering through the streets of his back catalogue and suddenly it is starting to make sense.
His dry witted, pin-point accurate looks at life are both endearing and entertaining. There is a Flight of the Conchords kind of quality to both his vocals and the content and while his focus has often been local (Norfolk references abound in his songwriting) “Astronomy Programmes” is universal.
A swirling, cosmic spirituality as well as a wonderful lyrical dexterity are on show. It is utterly charming and really rather beautiful. This electronic, galaxial mist of sound drifts and caresses while Murdoch’s light gravelly voice bounces off the softer swoon of producer Iain Lowery’s backing vocal. The beat snaps and skips gently as shooting stars of melody sweep by above and the lyrics ponder the great unknowns and reminisce for a simpler time (children of the 80s will feel a warm glow of nostalgia at the references).
It is disarmingly wonderful and the accompanying video, featuring local roller derby teams, is simple but beautiful. It’s taken us awhile but we are now over that line. No more head scratching for us, Birds of Hell is genius.
”Astronomy Programmes” is out via Meat Fer Manners on Monday 18 April and will be available via iTunes