Magnificent Birds of Prey are releasing their new album next month, the 11-track Kaleidoscope. Carl Kunz Jr. (guitar and vocals), Chris LaFrancis (bass, synths, and backing vocals), Joel Adams (drums and percussion), and Lyle Kelch Jr. (vocals and guitar) have put together what can be loosely described as an alternative rock album with heavy punk flavours, a definite 1990s influence, and a few experimental additions.
They state that they are about changing the status quo by rallying against the corporate grind and related “business suit mentality”. The name of the album reflects the process they feel we need to go through. “While the images a kaleidoscope provide are often chaotic, they also translate the light into something completely unique and ultimately change your perception altogether”. The band’s energy is infectious; one can feel how these four friends from Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh have poured themselves into each note and inflection.
The opener, “Sticks and Stones”, balances out a certain dreaminess with a hard rock edge. The lead’s gritty voice captures listeners’ attention; it will no doubt pull some into the album but push some others away, as it isn’t one typically associated with mainstream music. The rock ballad feel of “Icon” is driven by a strong bass line and energetic drums, and is heightened by roaring vocals. While these have a slight punk feel to them, the instrumentation is pure rock. The very short “Can’t Wash My Soul” is reminiscent of 1950s rock and roll songs, but the gravelly vocals remind us of the year we are actually in.
A more tender side of the band comes through in “Writing Everything Away” – at least it does for a short while, as the slow tempo beginning kicks up the beat a third of the way in. The band also brings forth its geeky side in “Stormtrooper Blues”, which seems to be a country-flavoured fun tune about one of Darth Vader’s soldiers who is questioning his life decision when his vacation request is denied. But once the amusement fades away (which takes quite some time), it becomes clear that this is, perhaps, the track that most closely reflects the band’s position on our culture’s attachment to the corporate grind, asking us if this is really what we want to be doing.
Just because Magnificent Birds of Prey has a sound that works well doesn’t mean it doesn’t experiment a little. “Co-Pilot” opens with distorted notes plucked on a synthesizer that gives it a surreal feel. “Statue” maintains its feet firmly in rock territory but clearly borrows some jazz-like undertones. “Seven” and “Collide O’Scope” are psychedelic, the former an uptempo, heavy track and the latter a smooth ride except, as always, for the gritty edge of the vocals. The album closes off with two reflective songs that could be loosely defined as ballads. The beat in “Drive” gives it a very faint Latin vibe, while “Lullaby” would fit in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Each song on Kaleidoscope is powerful, melodic, and captures one’s attention. They combine a sense of the familiar with a strong sense of innovation, thus ensuring that their sound remains fresh. With bursts of sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes heart-on-sleeve energy, the album brings to mind the kind of life the “business suit mentality” has snuffed: full, bright, and joyful, even at its slowest and darkest moments.