It’s always kind of incredible how great a gamble a split 7-inch single release can be for the artists involved. Over the years, lots of bands have made great ones, yes, but there have been an equal or greater number of weak or soft efforts which feel lopsided because either one band or one song is far superior to the other. It’s a potentially dicey situation, no doubt, and it’s the one which comes to mind when one listens to the single on which Birds and Stuyedeyed have collaborated.
The reason why this single looks like it might be a one-sided affair before one note of music is heard is sort of a personal one for me because, well, I happened to really like Birds’ Everything All At Once LP which was released in 2017 a lot – not for nothing did the album make an appearance on my Best Albums of 2017 list – and I’ve never heard a note from Stuyedeyed before in my life, to be honest. Even before stylus sinks into vinyl, Stuyedeyed is working at a disadvantage, in my eyes; but, happily, the band’s contribution proves to play much better than expected.
As “Believer” opens the A-side of the single (Stuyedeyed’s side), listeners may find they’re able to feel more than a little bit of cold apprehension creep the length of their spines. From the top – singer/guitarist Nelson Antonio Espinal routes out a disconcerting, mathy rhythm (think The Constantines riding a mean caffeine jag and you’re on the right track) and begins to bark out some dizzying commands. Right off, it goes without saying that the whole thing would turn to formless goo quickly on its own, but the rhythm section of Humberto (bass) and Luis (drums) keep it tightly contained so that the music has some good pressure behind it when it hits listeners. The results are a surprising and unlikely bit of magic; while there’s no denying that Espinal’s attack of the mic is jarring, that performance rests in captivating counterpoint to the dextrous and driving instrumental composition and arrives at a sound which is hypnotic in its power and depth. Listeners will fin themselves wishing this wasn’t just a one-song side, after it runs out.
Conversely, while the two sides do fit together very well, Birds’ contribution on the B-side of this split is a significant change of pace both from the A-side as well as for Birds, in general. Those who became acquainted with Birds through the Everything All At Once LP will be gob-smacked to find that while Birds was given to sounding a little under the influence of something hallucinogenic before, they just sound flat-out stoned on this one song. While the instruments sound a little proggy and uplifting more than a few times through this three-and-a-half-minute exercise, singer/guitarist Duane Lauginiger just moans and stretches every vowel in sight as he makes his way through which leaves a much different impression from the aforementioned LP. Where the songs on Everything All At Once chimed with bright color and energy, “Most Ghost” (while not a band song, per se) just sort of bathes, relaxed instead of swimming along.
Taken together, readers may be of the assumption that, after running front-to-back with this single, listeners will be left wanting. Well, that may be, but it’s important to point out that the songs aren’t bad – they’re simply not what fans are likely expecting. They’ll be surprised, for example, by the fact that Birds’ contribution is a pretty subdued affair, and rightly the B-side to the superior sound and energy of Stuyedeyed’s side. That’s one thing, but then the single has to try and bank on Stuyedeyed – a band with less output behind it and (let’s face it) a smaller base beneath it, so getting right onboard is just not so easy. Simply said, this seven-inch single isn’t bad, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. [Bill Adams]