So begins the third album from Limerick’s Windings, and as an organ drone breaks into a five-piece collage ‘I Am Not The Crow’ unfurls and gradually illuminates the dark, hidden recesses of its grooves. A one-time one-man endeavour since Giveamanakick’s Steve Ryan released the eponymous ‘Windings’ album in 2005, the band expanded to a quintet by ‘It’s Never Night’ in 2010. This latest record comes with a new member in the form of Roper’s Brian Meaney, ably replacing the departed Aaron Mulhall on drums.
The themes of the album are encased in music that belies its content, a surprisingly dark journey down through suspicion, isolation, disillusionment, dislocation and any number of similar alleyways. At times the lyrical content borders on misanthropy – but then there’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy distrust. Opener Sun In My Bones hints at Teenage Fanclub, with Ryan singing “Some things I won’t allow myself / And if not me, then nobody else”, lyrics that lurk behind a chorus that is disarmingly jangly and breezy. An extended guitar solo never outstays it’s welcome, transforming, evolving and progressing through various movements before a similarly pessimistic Something Outnumbered.
A stirring mid-album crescendo begins with Alkaterian Are Alright – swirling sci-fi effects underpin a muscular pumping build up before the rest of the band kick the door in. An enigmatic dystopian saga, the “Breathe in, slow down, sleep in / They won’t wait for us all that long” refrain is unadulterated, spacey ear candy. That constant wash of keys underneath Ryan’s vocal is the song’s – and album’s – underlying triumph. The airy and shimmering intro to This Is A Conversation comes at its heels with twin guitars and big, fuck-you power chords – “Let me in I said I’m a member/ And I paid my dues”, the outsider theme at its most overt. Another lengthy solo section leads out into title track I Am Not The Crow, a Sonic Youth style percussion-driven number with a dense and noisy finale.
Cleaner then is stripped back to the core, a compassionate vignette that erupts in the choruses and leaves on a hint of hope “Cos all here’s in need of some repair / But it works if you know how to use it”. In Need Of Some Repair follows, a brief, affecting piano instrumental taking its cue from that closing couplet. Echoing the chorus melody of Sun In My Bones, it’s a brief shard of light to dispel the gloom. The languid Stones lilt of Local Broken Man tells of isolation and degradation, of “towns of carcassed concrete caverns”, yet manages to be upbeat in the bargain until the album’s final moment of redemption – “The brightest light did shine”. With this then, the song marches the album softly, grandly to its conclusion.
Windings hit the bell-curve on the button with a rousing mid-section bookended by more melancholic numbers. Do not be given to thinking though that ‘I Am Not The Crow’ is a downbeat album – lyrically indeed the band are looking to the more shadowy aspects of life, but musically this is a treat. That early album one-two punch of Alkaterian Are Alright and This Is A Conversation is…well it’s something alright. Every now and then we hear the machinations behind the music; studio chatter in moments of silence, a hint at the organic nature of the recording process. The live experience of “five guys playing the shit out of their songs onstage” has paid dividends, and this band is locked together tighter than a duck’s hoop. Flying by in forty minutes but seeming like less, ‘I Am Not The Crow’ is a sonically layered blend of pathos and power chords, and a band at its cohesive best.