Long time friend and fan Emmet O’Brien shared with us his speech from the 30 March 2011 For The Birds 10th Anniversary gig at Vicar Street. A lovely ode to For The Birds and The Frames, we are very happy to archive it here for him and for everyone to enjoy. Thanks to Anne for the recording.
From its soft lilting instrumental opener “For the Birds” sets out its stall in a way very different to any of its predecessors. This is where you either retreat, away from its measured tones or if wiser, it is when you surrender utterly to the wild envy of our dark and feathered friends.
It’s difficult to put into words just how special this album is, its effect being quite ephemeral and elusive. The Frames have always epitomised the strong ethic of the working band, touring generously, fashioning songs on the road, experimenting, feeding off crowd reaction and adapting the material as they went on. It was that “on the road” romance that was the motivation behind “For the Birds”, the recording of which spanned from Ventry to Chicago via a few different houses but that in itself is very Framesian, a wandering muse both locally loved and embraced abroad. The band had once given us the image of taking a boat over a mountain, now here they were bringing songs down from their own hill and on their own terms.
The album slowly unfolds, draws you in and seduces with its wispy narratives, its restraint its greatest asset. So many tiny moments alluded to from fights on the stairs to the early morning walks, it’s a record of little gestures and the tone of the album seems to celebrate the magic of these fleeting moments of ordinary life. Death is present too, after all hearts stop in one song, but it never overpowers the redemption otherwise on display. In “Lay me Down” it seems to symbolise peace, the normality of sharing ones life with another, while in “Santa Maria” the apocalypse creeps in slowly but persistently, lovers are resigned to their fate and we the listeners can only sway along until the inevitable crescendo where both character and fan get swallowed up whole, the world heading ever southward while the song soars ever higher.
The album is seen by many as a mellow quiet affair and while this is true to a point it belies the exact nature of the whole. This is a work of so many little build ups, of cresendos, the music chomping at the bit to be unleashed, brooding patiently in the background but when released it is both messy and majestic. Attraction becomes an unruly mistress towards the end of “Headlong”, a secret dissonant rocked out jam can be found buried after the “Mighty Sword” has been sheathed and guitars and violins slash in the chaotic world of the “Earlybird”. The latter, a fierce storm of a song, perhaps the most strident here and definitely the biggest rock thrown into this otherwise deceptively calm pool.
There’s a super hero quality to the record presented in the wielding of a weapon that can lay liars down and voices in the dark needing a hero. Whether or not this reading was intentional the entire piece does act as something a listener can sink into. You can swoon to “Giving me Wings”, its plaintive expressions of love sounding like the most tender of conversations overheard or dance to the programmed drum beat of jaunty “Fighting on the Stairs” while the band sound weather beaten and marooned in some sort of limbo on the lo fi nadir of the album “Disappointed”. The line from that song “And we’re not going, oh nowhere” was a moot point, the band had already arrived.
Glen once said “this is what we’ll be remembered for”. “For the Birds” operates on its own logic, sealed in its own world, the quiet ruminations and rebellious howls to the wind sharing equal parts of the stage and showcasing the myriad contradictions of its creators. They have never sounded so pure as this, free of external influence they created an insular masterpiece that against all odds saw them connecting to more people than ever before. That the albums spell and artistry was untouched by this is a testament to its unusual grace and its enduring allure. Cherish this album for everyone you may know, those with stalled hearts, those that may sink deeper and deeper into the shade and those who know their place and can still soar, and finally for all your friends and all your foes.