By Carter Tiffany Rice
LABEL: WalloperGENRE: RockREVIEWED: October 27, 2023

On their sophomore album, the Edinburgh band struggles to shed its skin: a bizarre departure from punk prowess.

Bird, the Edinburgh-based punk outfit that made waves with their debut album "Full Plate," returns with their sophomore effort, "Snakes." While their previous work was celebrated for its intricate exploration of everyday life and defiant political undertones, "Snakes" represents a sharp and perplexing departure from the band's signature style, delving almost exclusively into the lead singer Finn MacLeod's irrational fear of snakes.

"Full Plate" was a revelation, showcasing the band's knack for blending punk aggression with contemplative lyricism, tackling themes of isolation and a burning hatred for the British monarchy. This debut album resonated with listeners who appreciated its intellectual depth and emotional complexity. However, "Snakes" is an odd pivot, offering an elementary laundry list of why Finn MacLeod is afraid of snakes.

The album kicks off with "Serpentine Nightmare," where MacLeod's tremulous vocals lay bare his visceral dread of these slithering creatures. Musically, the track retains some of the band's punk grit, but the lyrical content fails to rise above the most basic expressions of phobia. While punk has often been a platform for artists to confront their deepest fears and anxieties, "Snakes" comes across as more of a confessional therapy session than a musically engaging album.

Tracks like "Fangs in My Dreams" and "Cold-Blooded Panic" continue to wallow in MacLeod's snake-induced anxiety, providing little variation in lyrical content or musical approach. This relentless fixation on a single theme stifles the album's potential for growth, experimentation, and social commentary.

Sonically, "Snakes" retains the band's punk sensibilities, and the instrumentals are still relatively solid. The guitar work and drumming remain competent, but they often feel like an afterthought compared to the singular focus on MacLeod's snake phobia. There are fleeting moments of promise, such as in "Rattlesnake Rhapsody," where the band briefly rekindles their previous intensity and vigor, hinting at the possibility of a more balanced and dynamic album.

In terms of lyrics, "Snakes" is a letdown. The sheer repetition of MacLeod's fear and the absence of the thought-provoking social commentary that characterized "Full Plate" make the album feel one-dimensional. Even when punk music simplifies themes, it typically retains a sense of urgency and purpose. Here, the narrative arc is conspicuously absent.

The album concludes with "Ophidiophobia Blues," a poignant reminder of the band's potential to delve deeper into their personal fears while still engaging listeners with powerful storytelling. However, this late redemption is not enough to salvage an album that largely fails to resonate or inspire.

In the end, "Snakes" by Bird represents a curious misstep in the band's trajectory. While it's natural for artists to evolve and experiment, this departure from their previous complex introspection to a singular obsession with a personal fear feels like a missed opportunity. "Snakes" lacks the depth and intellectual resonance of its predecessor, leaving fans longing for the band's return to the thoughtful, politically charged punk that put them on the map.