Are birds real? Shaven Primates don’t think so, and they are ready to back this controversial stance with an all-new EP.
Punchy 5-piece rock act Shaven Primates hail from the English town of Oxford, and their music is consistently dark and almost consistently heavy on their latest EP, ‘Birds Aren’t Real’. What’s consistent is intricate and rich songwriting. The 5 songs on the EP are all well-mixed and the sound is quite punchy. The quintessentially British lyrics are engaging and the band dynamics that show up in the instrumental performances are deliciously delivered.
Take for example what I considered to be the EP’s centerpiece, the penultimate track, titled ‘Unmasked’. The piece starts with a delicate cacophony of just bass and guitar and vocals, with a healthy heft of chorusing on both the bass and the guitar, creating a breezy soundscape that is then amplified by a sparkling piano line, serene synth pads, and quirky chord movements. The song then abruptly explodes into an anthemic chorus, sounding massive, heavy, and victorious, with the vocal wails and the suddenly distorted-to-oblivion bass. The piece then proceeds to twist and turn between its multiple sections, finishing on the album’s most outstandingly anthemic passage. An immediate showstopper.
The outlandish latin funk of the final and titular track comes across as tastefully calculated, bridging a huge gap between a number of genres that seldom ever meet, creating a sound that can be an alien fusion of Radiohead, Oasis, Muse, and Arctic Monkeys, and remaining stalwartly Shaven Primates throughout. The is not to say that the album’s first 3 songs have nothing special going on. The alien rodeo rock of the starter ‘Fade Away’ sees the vocals of Mark Elphinstone become jaggedly baritone before suddenly belting out some immaculate chops in a spectacular display of vocal acrobatics. Not to mention the song’s galloping groove from Jarod Ganoe on the drums and Nick Letellier on the bass, and delay-based guitar riff from Tom Clark, creating a fresh sound that’s dripping with an identity unique to the act at hand.
The second cut, ‘A Decision’, written in the light of a close one taking their own life, is a stunning rocker that’s drenched in deep-hitting lyrics and space-age reverb. A calculated affair of heavy rhythms, simplistic, almost minimalistic melodies and compositions, the song boasts a dazzling synth lead performance from Neil Barry, in a display of the band’s solid musicianship that comes from years of playing together. Perhaps for half the population, the exceedingly ambitious, weird, and hectic ‘Silicon Implants’ will be looked at as the album’s crowning jewel, and rightfully so. The song’s steamroller rhythm and sledgehammer turnaround riff are absolutely delightful. Featuring one of the album’s most outstanding guitar performances, octave effects are going casually hand-in-hand with pitch shifting and a fusion of metal, rock’n’roll, and funk, creating a blindingly good guitar part on this piece. Crunchy and heavy, the song’s social commentary and sharp proclamation that Nazis are bad come across as just humorous enough to be meaningful and contemplative, but not fully dark and end-of-days.
Shaven Primates have changed me throughout this album. Now I’m not so sure birds are real. Because they are good, musical, and eloquent. Their songs are written with love and attention to detail, creating songs that sound different and have different cores, while all sounding puzzlingly cohesive thanks to unique styles brought forth by each individual member of the group. In the end I just want to say that this album is one of the finest and hardest to place rock releases that I’ve ever heard during 2023.