Somewhere in America’s country, in a grassy field that is too large to have an end, there is a lone steel guitar, crooning a downcast tune.
That is how Birds and Batteries’ new album, I’ll Never Sleep Again, seems to start with their cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” The lyrics amble in a low wobbling warble of words with a song that saunters close. Then skipping down the lane comes an electronic playfulness that disrupts this well-established pair of song and sound. It’s hard to see how this new addition is going to squeeze its way between this doleful duo without there being some violence, some force applied. It won’t be able to seamlessly worm its way into this steady strolling music. There’s got to be some resistance.
Somehow, the new addition finds his way between the two, and the duo’s no longer that duo that wanders down the street, arm and arm in loneliness. They’ve become something else with that new addition. They’ve become a trio. You can tell. It’s that new addition.
The electronics involved in Birds & Batteries marches to a different tune than the vocals and instrumentation. He skips along, swinging arm in arm with the doleful duo who seem to trace the same sorry steps they always have, as if there wasn’t some silly ninny between the two whose lightfoot steps bring him higher than the other two. The ninny always stands out. He doesn’t seem like he’s part of the duo. He doesn’t seem like he’s part of the duo because he’s part of the trio. It’s all something new, something changing, something that doesn’t yet have a name. Left without a word for it, I don’t really know what to call it, this unlikely trio. It seems like the electronics take the other two places they’ve never been, but the duo walks at the same pace they always have, tracing the same steps. Nonetheless, this is certainly something new, something changing, something that hasn’t yet a name…
Any quality ascribed to I’ll Never Sleep Again on account of the ninny can be canceled out by the duo. The trio has its own atmosphere, but the duo does as well: two is a part of three, a distinct part, easy to see the parts or the whole.
Birds & Batteries—The birds are the country sound, the duo of voice and music. The batteries are the electronic sound, the ninny skipping down the street. It’s easy to see either on the album, and because of that, its hard to tell if I am ever really hearing the birds and the batteries, or if I only hear one or the other. Is what I think of a trio of sounds only the electronic sound leading the vocals and instruments into steps they don’t normally take? Or is this trio truly something else, something new…Birds & Batteries?