Brendan Kelly & the Wandering Birds are all set to release their new album Keep Walkin’ Pal, and we managed to grab a copy early to see what all the fuss was about – read on to see what we thought of it!
By Jane Howkins
Brendan Kelly is perhaps more well known as being the frontman of punk band The Lawrence Arms, a band that have become semi-famous legends in their own right within that scene. It’s been fairly common for the frontmen of some of the more popular folk-punk bands to go solo in recent years, with Chuck Ragan, Brian Fallon, and Dave Hause coming to mind, and Kelly goes down a similar route here – although we have to say that his album is a lot more upbeat than the stuff those other artists have put out during their solo careers.
Most of the tracks here follow a rockabilly rhythm, with country being just as big of an influence on the album as punk, folk, americana, and traditional rock ‘n’ roll. Musically these tracks are great and the album makes for a great stomp to dance along to, with the lyrics containing the sort of balladry you might expect from such a record. The addition of synths and keyboards is a new one and doesn’t always seem to work that well if we’re honest, but we can see people liking those parts and it certainly sounds unique. It’s quite different from the music that The Lawrence Arms make, but that just means that Kelly is not a one trick pony, and there are moments when elements of that band start to seep in. If anything, we’re actually reminded somewhat of the music of Social Distortion, albeit with more of a folky sound than that band.
In terms of the vocals, Kelly also reminds us a lot of Mike Ness of Social Distortion. He’s always had quite a gruff voice, but that’s amplified even more here and is even more audible due to the stripped down sound of the music. We hate saying this but at times the gruffness becomes a little too much, and there are a lot of notes that sound out of tune to us, which shouldn’t really be a problem this late into someone’s career. Fans of Kelly’s previous work should be able to overlook this as they’ll be used to it, but we did find this to be rather distracting in all honesty, and the poor production quality seemed to amplify this even more. This sort of record is made to be raw, but at times it just sounds a little rushed, and there’s something that doesn’t sound quite right in terms of the production.
It’s a tale of two halves really – the songs themselves are generally pretty good but Keep Walkin’ Pal is let down by the vocal style and production quality at times – two things that really should have been resolved along the way. New fans may be slightly put off by this but it shouldn’t really affect older fans that much, so if you’re a fan of Kelly’s work already you should enjoy this – don’t let us put you off!