Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Birdmens - Lockdown Loaded

Lockdown Loaded is an album for these strange times.  Here are eleven tracks, conceived and executed by eight musos in isolation from each other, in less than two months, from bang to bullets.  It’s often a raw, edgy, affair, lacking finesse here and feeling under-developed there – but it will grab you by the short and curlies so that your hearts and minds follow.  In other words, it works and then some.  
Ian Siegal - groanin'n'growlin'
Birdmens set out their stall with the opener ‘Cat Drugged Up’, where an acoustic riff gets booted in the butt by a thudding beat which one can only assume is the work of Dave Doherty, as he – a guitarist by trade - is the only person pleading guilty to percussion misdemeanours in this crew.  Howls of harp arrive courtesy of Giles King, and they’re off on a primitive Delta Blues stomp with Ian Siegal serving up a vocal about how “the situation’s all fucked up” in his best blues groan, while they layer on the instrumentation to create a suitably cacophonous racket.  It’s the real deal.
The following ‘Hipbone’ is in a similar vein, with Jon Amor on lead vocal duties and harmonising from Siegal, over simple, booming drums amidst more wailing harp, and squealing guitar and tinkling piano in the background.  But it also edges towards the funkier terrain where they lay their hats on several tracks.  ‘It’s Inconvenient’ has a nimble, twitching vibe, driven by a rolling wave of organ from Bob Fridzema, with injections of wah-wah as Amor recounts a tale of everything going to shit in a manner which renders the title an understatement.  The real monster funk groove though, is reserved for ‘Diggin’ That Rut’, with its nagging rhythm and booming bass from Rob Barry, while Siegal goes full-on James Brown growl, replete with his trademark rasping squeals, and one of the several available guitar slingers cranks out squalling guitar breaks.
They’re prepared to shake things up though, as evidenced by the late Sixties vibe of ‘Sheriff’
Jon Amor - Here's lookin' at you, kid
Pic by Dan Watkiss
and the phantasmagorical gospel-funk of ‘Heal Thyself’.  The former, from the pens and pencils of Amor, Doherty, and Lavendore Rogue guitarist Joel Fisk, takes a Stonesy piano riff and blends it with acoustic guitar, harmonised vocals and a swirling organ break in edgy, psychedelic-leaning mode.  Meanwhile the latter makes like Fantastic Negrito on a Transatlantic crossing, combining tripping drums, swirling organ, funky clavinet and spiky guitar, while Siegal essays a Prince-like falsetto about how “We ain’t doin’ this for our health, Heal the nation and heal thyself”.  Self-serving politicians in the cross-hairs there, methinks.
‘What’s The Name’ is a bluesier funk workout though, with a busy bass line from Barry driving things along over scuttling drums, while squawks of harp complete with rolling, jangling guitar and a slithering guitar solo.  But ‘Holler’ is straight ahead blues fare, with a wonderfully lazy, ambling-in-the-midday-sun groove, over which Siegal delivers more falsetto to accompaniment that includes moaning harp from King and some rinky-dink piano from either Fridzema or fellow ivory-tinkler Jonny Henderson.
The album closes with the eponymous ‘Birdmens’, a quintessentially Siegal slice of Americana co-written with Amor, all steely acoustic guitar and subtle gospel organ, with lap steel shadings.  “This ain’t Alcatraz baby,” he sings, “We’re the last of the last Birdmen.”  It’s a suitably elegiac tone, and image of confinement, for the situation that gave rise to this project.
To pinch a phrase from Neil Young, Lockdown Loaded is ragged glory.  It’s a ballsy, unrefined “fuck you” to circumstance.  It sure ain’t perfect - hell, even their name feels like a typo that escaped from a drunken Zoom conference.  But hey, it’s rock’n’roll baby!

Birdmens are: Jon Amor, Rob Barry, Dave Doherty, Joel Fisk, Bob Fridzema, Jonny Henderson, Giles King, Ian Siegal.

Lockdown Loaded is available from www.birdmens.com, on download now, on CD from 1 June, and on vinyl from 31 July.  (If you order a CD or vinyl, you’ll get a free download now.)


  1. Great release, I'm already listening :)
    L.B. - Budapest

  2. Love the review, Iain. It makes me want to listen to the whole album.