The first track on How The Cause Became The Cure offers a hint as to the unorthodox approach this Ann Arbor bunch take to their music. A gentle, winding acoustic track with jazzy undertones, it feels much more like a comfortable conclusion than an impression making introduction. As welcome as the song is, it sets the listener off balance as the much more immediate second track, Miserable Turn of Events, bursts into the room to get the party started for real. With an energetic rock punch and poppy Beach Boys-esque 'ooh la la la' backing vocals, this one pricks up the ears and demands attention.
Despite this apparent anomaly, I have a feeling The Dirty Birds are perfectly happy with the order of things and no less so if it confounds a few expectations. Their constantly morphing take on indie-rock, replete with jazz flourishes, pop melodies, and breezy surf riffs, is rarely content to anchor itself in one expected genre.
Indeed, after the brief charge up the tempos 2 songs in, the sound returns to a more contemplative style to consider the case of Caitlin. Whether a resolution is reached is unclear but the exploration of the character is by turns hopeful and melancholy, with the instrumentation neatly chronicling the matter along with the lightly spoken lyrics. Just As Blue follows with another quiet, acoustic lament that sounds beautifully full, perfectly offset by the vocal harmonies on show.
Across the full length of the album, so many facets of the The Dirty Birds sound are uncovered that it can take several spins to really accept How The Cause Became The Cure as a coherent document of one band's music. Overall, it leans towards the evocative analysis of relationships and the personalities within them, with carefully orchestrated acoustic numbers subtly showcasing a wide variety of instrumentation to convey the required emotion. The musicianship in this respect is excellent and does a fantastic job of underlining the lyrics of singer Jared Saltiel.
MP3: The Dirty Birds - Self Discipline
Taken from the new album, How The Cause Became The Cure, out now
Elsewhere, the more upbeat side of the band is perhaps less shown off but is, for this listener, where the most memorable songs are to be found. Whether the bounding Checkmate or the soulful, confident Self-Discipline with its naggingly insistent chorus and huge hooks, it's great to hear the band cutting loose and having some fun. Again, what it takes a few times through to realise is that the enjoyment of the upbeat is only improved by the slower, more melancholy numbers. The juxtaposition of quietly fragile with the brazenly extrovert is what makes this album so endearing and sets it apart from other bands with a great take on their chosen style but a limit on their application across a whole album.
So, to be pulled into the world of The Dirty Birds you should certainly download Miserable Turn of Events or Self Discipline and dig into the sound from there. To really feel what the band is putting out there and understand the depth of their influences, though, purchase the whole album and take some time to piece it all together. You'll be glad you did.