Album Review: The Mynabirds, “Generals”
Omaha-based band The Mynabirds, created and fronted by songwriter Laura Burhenn, certainly ventured into new territory with their Richard Swift-produced sophomore album, Generals. Well, perhaps it’s not completely new ground, considering Burhenn had ideas for this record way before the band released their first record What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood in 2010. The album achieves a bluesy, percussion-driven vintage pop/rock vibe, influenced by modern alt-rock (what with the synthesizers and all), and sounds like it was recorded to tape. At its core, this newest oeuvre is steeped in a very empowered effort to spark a revolution in these politically disassembled times.
If What We Lose in the Fire is a vigilant rabbit, then Generals is a vicious lion cunningly stalking its prey. The album’s first track, “Karma Debt”, conveys collective recompense that society owes to the world or each other. Our greed and intolerance as a people has put us in karmic debt. Stylistically the tune bears some resemblance to PJ Harvey’s quirky and bereft songs, especially in Let England Shake, but only in overall vibe. A lot of the album’s musical and production tone is similar to Harvey’s, but the two singers’ voices are so different that it’s hard to draw this comparison with conviction.
Burhenn sounds her battle cry very pointedly in the album’s aggressive and bluesy title track, singing “Callin’ all my generals, my daughters, my revolutionists”, in a slight call-and-response manner. “Wolf Mother” seems to discuss and condemn, over clap-drum militaristic percussion, the thwarting of social change and a kind of “wolf in sheep’s clothing” mentality- emitting an innocent persona while secretly harboring prejudice.
“Radiator Sister” proves a fairly highlight-able track, its musically bouncy vibe contrasting its empowering yet cautionary lyrics- “There’s a poison in the harbor, it’s looking deadly in the seas… you see em’ dyin’ in the breadlines, then turning profits in the street.” Its stylistic and lyrical juxtaposition is so ironic. The tune almost calls to mind, only in its tinny, clanging production, “Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes, or maybe something by the Chiffons.
After “Disaster”, which kicks off with some low-register piano, blues-driven “ohs”, and a muffled but dirty-sounding guitar riff, the aggression of the record tapers off a bit. According to an interview that Burhenn did with Under the Radar, Generals is about showing a transition from anger to actualizing the change you want to see happen.
So we have a bit of a calm after the storm both instrumentally and lyrically with “Mightier than the Sword”, “Disarm” and “Buffalo Flower”. “Greatest Revenge” really calls to mind a ‘60s slow ballad, slightly evocative of Karen Carpenter. The clacking percussion and bubbly synth and guitar in “Body of Work” make it one of the catchier of the tame group of songs. But I have to say, the first half of the album conveys so much more of a meaningful message, and showcases songs hinged on more creative and ear-catching instrumental work.
Check out The Mynabirds’ official website for tour dates and more information: