After years being the man in the background, the unknown songwriter and the hard-working session guitarist, Silverbird’s Tim Barr made a step into his own spotlight when the band released their debut EP, Surface Life, in May 2014. Having previously performed in Lana Del Ray’s group and opened for indie electro favourites The Blow, Barr was no stranger to the music business but by forming Silverbird, here was his chance to put his showman skills to the test and take the big step forward on his own terms, rather than standing stage right.
If this is Barr’s chance to make a name for himself, then Silverbird show no signs of hesitation. Opener ‘Running’ wastes no time introducing the listener to the four-piece’s widescreen full-colour shine. The striking vocals immediately takes centre stage, with Barr showing off his impressive voice, a high sprawl that manages to consume all ahead of it without grating on the ears. The track combines bright summary guitars with Johnny Marr-esque jangles and there is a gloss to their music that would make you think they were from LA not New York.
In fact the light and dark in the album sum ups the contrasts of living in a modern city nicely – with the bright and colourful storefronts often hiding a seedy underbelly round the corner. On second track ‘Brooklyn’, sinister guitars blend with blackhearted lyrics as Barr sings “There’s a ghost inside the moon and he’s coming after you.” Next track ‘Mountain’ though builds up to such a triumphant and beautiful peak that you forget that just one song ago you were searching for the nightlight. Strong melodies standout throughout the record and you expect these have been honed through years on the gigging circuit. Occassionaly clumsy lyrics get in the way of the songs though such as ‘Emptiness’, which strives for epic, but can’t help but fall over it’s own shoelaces along the way.
Later in the album, the galloping start to ‘Lyfe’ makes a nice change of pace with it’s Houndmouth sounding southern guitars, and makes you wish they’d added a bit more pace earlier. Final track ’45’ uses their brooding and slow-building style to great effect though, with a laid back gunslinger riff repeating throughout to create one of their heaviest songs. Ending with menacing screams and laughter it’s one of the most exciting three minutes on the album and suggests that perhaps they should let things boil over more often, rather than just simmering along.
There is an underdog spirit, as well as sonic similarities, that drives comparisons with indie-circuit troopers The Boxer Rebellion, who despite having all the ingredients for a breakthrough success (and a terrific work-rate) never quite managed to push themselves past the finish line. Silverbird definitely have the attributes to carve out a career, although you feel they need a splash of something a little more distinct to really set them apart from some of their peers. You can never disregard the power of good songwriting though and Barr and company certainly demonstrate with ‘Pureland’ that they are capable of writing moving and touching numbers.
It’s that lack of spark that might hold back Pureland from reaching the ears of a wider audience, but this accomplished effort suggests that given a bit more time there is plenty to come from the four piece.