Thursday, December 12, 2019

PHIL JUDD/Flightless Bird review!


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Nearly 50 years after he co-founded Split Enz with Tim Finn, Phil Judd remains one of the most under-appreciated musicians in Australia… or anywhere else for that matter. His unique approach to music was evident on the Enz’s first two albums, MENTAL NOTES (1975) and SECOND THOUGHTS (1976).  By the time the third Enz album, DIZRHYTHMIA was released in 1977, Phil had already left the band and had been replaced by Tim’s younger brother Neil Finn. Judd kept a low profile for a few years before emerging with The Swingers, whose 1981 single “Counting The Beat” remains one of Australia’s biggest selling singles.  The Swingers split after one album and Judd put out his first solo album PRIVATE LIVES in ’83. He then did some soundtrack work before releasing two albums in the early ‘90s with the band Schnell Fenster - which featured former Enz members Nigel Griggs and Noel Crombie. After a few quiet years, Judd resumed his solo career and has released series of wildly creative solo releases that are – as you’d expect – eclectic, eccentric, and filled with imagination and wonder.

On FLIGHTLESS BIRD, Judd handles vocals, nearly all the instrumentation as well as production, engineering, artwork, etc. The album is both music and art combined. If you are familiar with Judd’s art, you’ll know that he pays attention to detail. The same can be said of his music – every note is exactly where it should be. And when it feels like things might be getting out of control, Judd pulls back at just the right moment, allowing the music to soar on its own. While he certainly doesn’t sound like any of Les Claypool’s various projects, Judd works in the same unconventional corner of the musical universe. That's where you'll find R. Stevie Moore as well. In a nutshell, you’ve never heard anything quite like a Phil Judd album. Well, unless you’ve heard a Phil Judd album…

FLIGHTLESS BIRD is yet another visit  to the Carnival of Phudd, a musical universe that only exists on Phil Judd albums. Since he  has been in the music business for this long, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Judd makes music that is safe and predictable. However, the complete opposite is true. FLIGHTLESS BIRD is an album that is more inventive than most artists you’ll hear this year… or decade. There are so many layers to the recordings on the album that it will most definitely take a few listens before you can wrap your head around the melodies and counter melodies. But this isn’t conventional Pop music. Every song is put together like a watch – there are many moving parts to his recordings, each of them leading to the final results you hear on the album.

Sometimes joyful, sometimes harrowing but always interesting, FLIGHTLESS BIRD is an album pieced together by a man who should be sipping lemonade by a lake and enjoying retirement. Instead, he is banging on guitars and summoning demons. “Lilydale Station”, “Mono Into Stereo”, “This Is Then & That Is Now”, “Topsy-Turvy”, ‘Fairy Dust”, and the title track are a few of the highlights. Like his past albums, one needs to spin it a few times in order to discover all the working parts. Carefully constructed, FLIGHTLESS BIRD offers the listener many rewards. It may not be your standard Pop fare, but it is sure worth diving into when you want to experience true Pop Art.

Your pal,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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