THE MYNABIRDS > What We Gain In The Fire We Lose In The Flood


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mynabirds coverTHE MYNABIRDS

What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood


[Rating: 3 stars]

When Laura Burhenn, half of the now-defunct Georgie James, sought inspiration for her new musical project, she looked toward one of the most famous bands-that-never-were: the Myna Birds. Formed in the 1960s, the band at one time included Neil Young, Rick James, Rickman Mason, John Taylor and Bruce Palmer. Alas, a funked-up version of “Heart of Gold” was not to be. They endured several line-up changes, recorded several tracks, but never released a proper album before breaking up later in the decade. With these Mynabirds, Burhenn joins forces with multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift with the aim to create music that feels like “Neil Young doing Motown.” Even if the Mynabirds are still finding their voice, this idiosyncratic spirit translates well into the 10 tracks on What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood.

The combination of pounding pianos and swelling horns flows across the album to create this Motown-Neil Young feel. Many of the tracks spill over with trumpets, tubas, French horns and saxophones that punctuate the rhythms. Among the early standouts on the record is the swinging “Numbers Don’t Lie,” a song that acts as the lead single and the finest example of the band’s stated purpose. The track begins with a church-like organ before breaking into a piano-led stomp augmented by soulful backing vocals. Intermittent electronic murmurs divide the track in pieces, an element that reveals Swift’s influence in the songwriting. This contrast works well within “Numbers Don’t Lie” and adds a fresh perspective to the decidedly old-school vibe. The same sentiment applies to Swift’s contributions throughout the album, even if his influence isn’t as apparent in all tracks.

“Ways of Looking” counts among the best melodies the Mynabirds conjure here. The band strips back the layers of horns in favor of a more spare approach that allows Burhenn’s lyrics to bubble to the surface. “I lost my head in an avalanche/The world turned over when I least expect/Buried me under my great plans/Why can’t it ever be easy?” she sings. A catchy chorus coupled with a strummed electric guitar and a tapped tambourine lends a Velvet Underground tinge to the song, but Burheen’s singing keeps it rooted in blue-eyed soul. The song acts as an admission of being overwhelmed with love while struggling to see things from a different point of view. It comes across as a sincere expression of hard-earned knowledge, one that comes in a simple, but exquisitely wrapped package.

Stylistically, “Ways of Looking” fits with the two closing tracks on the album: “Right Place” and “Good Heart.” “Right Place” trades a percussive piano for a plaintive one and adds some strings to pump up the emotion. “Good Heart’ closes the album with a melancholy pedal steel guitar and lilting backing vocals. This trio of songs seems to linger in the atmosphere long after the conclusion of the album. While numbers like “Let the Record Go” and ‘Wash It Out” might reflect the Neil Young-Motown ambition of the Mynabirds, the quiet moments prove the most memorable, when the songs have a chance to sink in between the ears.

What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood ably captures the spirit of a band-that-never-was with a legendary membership. At times, the Mynabirds live up to the weight of their inspiration, but one gets the sense that the band is still discovering its sound. The album, however, does manage to exude a vintage polish and clarity of purpose absent from many artists working today. These attributes alone predict good things. With a little more time and comfort in their methods, the Mynabirds have an excellent chance to carve out a legacy of their very own.


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