Monday, September 9, 2013
Face The Bird
Given the growing stylistic diversity of Donnelly's contributions to recent Figgs albums, longtime fans won't find Face The Bird's eclecticism the least bit off-putting. But this is not a Figgs record. It's a Pete Donnelly solo album - a project that has allowed an amazingly talented artist to try things that might not "fit" on a Figgs release. If you're expecting punchy power pop or sweaty rock n' roll, you're sure to be let down. But any true Donnelly fan will be absolutely thrilled with this album. It's so good. Even as Donnelly explores a wide variety of musical styles and influences, he mostly sticks to the melodic pop sensibility he's so well known for. And from a lyrical standpoint, he's never written more personal or powerful songs.
Largely recorded last fall in a makeshift home studio in an unused Ocean City, New Jersey storefront, Face The Bird is the product of Donnelly's quest to retreat into the isolation of an off-season resort town and indulge his creative muse 24/7. It's no surprise, then, that the "feel" of this album is a little different from anything we've previously heard from Donnelly. In many ways it's a throwback to the classic singer/songwriter albums of the '70s, but with enough acknowledgement of modern styles and recording techniques to keep it fresh and current. Particularly on the front end, the material is some of Donnelly's strongest in a long time. The breezy soft rock of "Always Something" is AM gold for a new generation, while the funky "Hunger Like" is a contagious shot of blue-eyed soul. And while I hear echoes of everyone from Bruce Springsteen (the great "Got Caught Up") to Paul Westerberg ("A Thing Or Two) to Jackson Browne ("Hear It From Me First"), this is uniquely a Pete Donnelly creation. His melodies dazzle as always, and it's a pleasure to encounter his many moods within the framework of a single album. The dramatic and intense "Delicate Elocution" just might be his magnum opus, and the happy-sounding title track is surprisingly profound.
After recording sessions for Face The Bird were cut short by the devastating arrival of Hurricane Sandy, the album was finished in several locations in the Philadelphia area. The ups and downs of making the record are reflected in its wide range in tone and style. It's an ambitious, bipolar achievement. Yet it flows beautifully as a whole, and it has me hoping that there will be many more Pete Donnelly solo albums to come. I wholeheartedly recommend Face The Bird - not only to fans of The Figgs, but to anyone who enjoys good music in general.