Birds Of Pray Label: Mca
The once straight-forward and genuinely guitar-heavy college rock band from central Pennsylvania, who got lost in a sea of political ideology, artificial lyrics and ill-advised musical gimmicks, has returned with a welcomed blast from their early past. Chad Taylor’s ferocious guitar is back. This time Ed Kowalczyk’s passionate vocals have managed to find a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, call it love, that doesn’t get muddied in anti-government lectures. Live is a rock and roll band again making good music, and the latest proof is Birds of Pray.
“Heaven” unfastens this project in a manner similar to 1994’s “Selling the Drama,” with a spoken verse laid over a lone, hushed guitar jingle. Soon the awe-inspiring chorus rings in behind crashing full-band accompaniment and you’re hooked for the same reasons that the decade-old classic Throwing Copper first remained in your car for a year or more. The giddy “Sanctity of Dreams” and steamroller “Bring the People Together” both ooze of traditional Live. Even the balladry of “Run Away” recalls better times for this band. When Kowalczyk admits, “You got to know where you’re coming from to know just where you’re going,” you can finally hear a voice for a generation who’s not trying to preach the gospel. It seems this consignment of songs forgoes the mellow dramatic pain that was probably never there in the first place and, instead, opts for simpler emotions and more connectable themes.
Birds of Pray is hardly a greatest hits record; it has a few drab moments. But highlights like “Life Marches On” and the grandiose “Lighthouse” (a sure smoker in concert this time around!) give this new offering the legs that recent Live albums have lacked. Gone are the inclusions of rapper pals like Tricky and misguided loops, beeps and experimentations galore. Forget the hokey lyrics about religion and spirits from afar, because this year finds Kowalczyk and Taylor leaner and meaner than they’ve been for sometime. They sound like a small club band again, instead of the next contender for the king of the 20,000-seat amphitheaters. On their last two albums, Live lost their edge and even their audience by trying to say and do too much. Birds of Pray has them tightening the noose and narrowing their scope. To their credit, the result is the best record they’ve produced since 1997’s Secret Samadhi. Welcome back, boys; you’ve been missed!