I’ve relived this story many times, and probably told it a few too; if you’d like to get straight to my thoughts on the release, you can skip the rest of this first paragraph, your choice. Anyway, it’s the Oxjam Cardiff takeover in November 2014, and despite the offer of free alcohol if I remain in Clwb Ifor Bach, I’ve instead left and headed for Undertone to watch a band I’ve never even heard of before. Why would I do that, you ask. Good question, but since the drink is a promise I can (and will) redeem before the end of that year, whereas the band… Well, if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know what the outcome might have been. So alone I descend the permanently dark steps into my favourite basement, purchase my own beverage, and wait. There weren’t so many people there on that occasion as I recall, but I don’t know, festival days are a blur and the drink does nothing to aid my already terrible memory. The music starts late, or maybe I was early, or perhaps it actually began shortly after I arrived there. Regardless of the time, the band play, and despite not having an idea what I was expecting I’m somehow surprised – maybe more that I’ve somehow manage to avoid awareness of them for this long than anything else. During the set they advertise their new EP, and after it ends I approach one of them to buy a copy – this is a much bigger deal than it should be, remember I’m still at the stage of mostly needing to be blackmailed with drink offers to even speak to bands.
Two years, many more Birdcage shows and some further interaction (most of it admittedly digital) later, I’m sat here listening to ‘Let Me Think’. This is the fourth EP from the band, who are far from alone in favouring regular (in their case, pretty much yearly) short releases over trying to find the time to record a full length album. I hope they do eventually though, because at this point they really sound ready for it. Setting the vibe from the beginning of ‘Paint Your Face’ with rasping vocals and fuzzy guitars, the grunge influence that underpins their sound (and caught my attention in the beginning) is balanced out later in the track by a sudden softer passage, picking up again after in that don’t-fix-what-isn’t-broken alt-rock way. ‘You, My Heavy Star’ follows, it’s the lead single from the release and rightly so; being the catchiest track on here with an earworm chorus that seems unassuming at first, but after a couple of listens you just yearn to sing along with at the top of your lungs (as I often have been, usually at six in the morning whilst setting up in work). ‘Premonition’ starts off gently, gradually building into the noisiest point of the EP by the end of the song, as effect-heavy guitars squeal feedback and the pace increases until the track blows itself out. Closer ‘Stolen Photographs’ provides a dreamy comedown, crescendo-ing in places but at a calmer rate and with more space to breathe, fading out into a conclusion that leaves this release feeling complete, despite its modest length. Available from 11th November, ‘Let Me Think’ doesn’t break new ground, because it doesn’t need to. In bringing all their influences together and showing that they can make these work seemingly effortlessly combined, Birdcage have created something both beautiful and powerful, demanding and captivating attention in equal measure.