Dark. Dystopic. Cinematic. In equal parts a radical departure and a return to their epic rock roots. It’s fitting that Birds of Tokyo have called their new album, Brace.
Over recent years highly melodic radio staples like ‘Plans’, ‘Wild At Heart’, ‘Lanterns’, ‘This Fire’ and ‘Anchor’ have brought Birds of Tokyo multiple ARIA and APRA Awards plus a string of platinum plaques making them the country’s most popular contemporary rock band. But this new album sees them torching that formula and embracing a heavier, more urgent attitude; making good on the title track’s tidal wave promise to “destroy it all”.
The relentless ten song set was produced with Canadian David Bottrill who has helmed releases for Tool, Muse and Silverchair. Together they’ve created a bold and uncompromising piece of work.
According to the band Brace was created to be played live – hence the opening lines of the opening track that invite the listener to “come take a seat, enjoy the show”. This is why they are unveiling it with a gig rather than an online stream or suchlike. It’s a muscular but deeply layered journey that’s deliberately conceived to be shared physically – not just digitally.
It should be no surprise that these songs were written during the rise of Trump and the return of Hanson. It’s not an overtly political album but there’s an end-of-days mood pervading each of these tunes and it makes for an unusually cohesive body of work. From the brutal opening riffage of ‘Harlequins’ it’s clear that the band has a point to prove and all is not well. This outlook is most explicit on songs like ‘Empire’ where crumbling walls are torn down and on the closer ‘Mercy Arms’ which literally tracks the final moments of life support. Along the way ‘Discoloured’ (featuring Hayley Mary from The Jezabels) embraces life on the ledge; awash in a sea of paranoia and dislocation. Even the mid-album moment which initially seems like a respite – ‘Pilot’ – grows gradually into a climax of “watching it all fall apart to be new again”.