Published in The Plant. Volume 44.10, Thursday April 23rd 2015
Bird Problems exists as a testament to my discomfort in putting music into neat categories. I have no idea how to describe its sound within the confines of a genre, and it’s gratifying that the band itself doesn’t seem to know how to either. On its Bandcamp site, Bird Problems calls itself a “Post-Hardcore/Metal/Whatever Band.”
That mash of genre buzzwords comes from the diverse musical interests of Bird Problems’ members. Being friends with Michael Smilovitch (vocals, rhythm guitar, McGill University), Daniel Smilovitch (drums, Dawson), Joseph Anidjar (lead guitar, Vanier), and Max Laramee (bass guitar, Dawson) is to be constantly exposed to progressive rock, post-hardcore, metal, punk, jazz, electro-jazz, neo-funk, trap, d33p hau5, vaporwave, and other musical oddities. The confluence of influences that each member brings to the table makes for interesting and ambitious music, as the band’s latest release demonstrates.
Out on the 10th of April, on Bandcamp, for whatever you’re willing to pay, Birdshot EP contains two songs. Bird Problems brings the intensity right out of the gate with The Arthritis, a tense, exciting, and surprising song. High pitched guitar walkdowns interspersed with machinegun double-kick drums and groovy, driving basslines blend together around urgent, tense vocal work on the track. The band wants you to know that it’s here and that it’s serious. The instrumental flows in layers into the heavier sections, and you can feel the rhythm come together underneath the screams—used sparingly and to good effect. All of this careful buildup culminates in a brief, all-out thrash at the end, capping off a satisfying song with a neat nod to the various influences that led to this musical place.
For anybody who isn’t familiar with Bird Problems, which is to say most people, The Arthritis is an excellent introduction to the energy and precision they present in their sound. It’s something that comes across in their live shows, and the Bird Problems ethos is done right by the production on this track.
Torsion is more prog-rocky, with spaced out guitar, diluted vocal effects, and more methodical drums. All of this ramps up—as layers are added—to a few crescendos that bring back the blistering guitar and heaviness that Bird Problems does so well. After each crash, the music ebbs again before building up to another climax, each adding more screams and djent and slap bass. It’s all very compelling, and the progression of aggression in the song is a remarkable show of restraint and talent by the band. The song isn’t without issue, however.
Torsions lyrics range from vague to inscrutable. I know, thanks to having watched this song go from concept to finished product, that Torsion is about the fall from grace and foiled redemption of a pariah, but how would a new listener decipher that? I applaud the thematic and emotional ambition of the track, but without the rest of the narrative, much of its significance is lost. The character in the song asks, after a brief instrumental breakdown, “What was that sound?” not knowing it to be a gunshot until too far too late. The listener will be asking the same thing, but there will be no metaphorical bullet to drive the point home. And even I have no idea what “I’d sooner defect from my eyes to inspire resistance from its gaze” means.
Torsion also suffers from points where the vocal track is completely overpowered by gentle guitar and simple drumming. I get that it’s a juxtaposition between the more intense segments and the more mellow moments, but it would be nice to be able to hear the words. This production problem is made all the more glaring by the professional, crisp sound of The Arthritis. Nevertheless, Torsion is a varied, interesting track even if at points it gets swallowed by its own ambition.
Easily the most compelling and impressive piece of work Bird Problems has yet released, Birdshot EP bodes well for the future of the band. The EP shows off the band’s versatility and ambition, even if at times it feels like they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can handle, watching them chew their way through the challenge is really fun. I recommend the EP, and encourage you to go pick it up—again, for whatever you want to pay—at: https://birdproblems.bandcamp.com/album/birdshot-ep. Let the head-banging commence.