After a live album (of new, one-off tracks) and an EP to get the year started at a leisurely pace, The Bug Club capped off 2023 with their second full-length album – an hour-and-a-bit long double LP called Rare Birds: Hour of Song.
Now then, what could you possibly have to say that takes two records to spit out? Pay attention to this and learn. It’s The Bug Club’s Hex Enduction Hour. South Wales’ Double Nickels On The Dime. It’s The Faust Cycle for people with shorter attention spans. Listen to me, why don’t you. I’m from the label. I’m relevant. I have a huuuuge record collection, I love name-dropping, and I don’t have many friends.
Their fifth release since joining forces with We Are Busy Bodies earlier this year, ‘Rare Birds…’ is a culmination of a year spent relentlessly touring. But it’s not one of those hackneyed road records. It’s about birds, to an extent. Well, it is, and it isn’t. And it is 47-songs long, featuring 23 Cutler-esque spoken-word tracks that weave through the music telling a surreal story to accompany the band’s usual witty, taut garage rock. Oh, and it comes with a fully illustrated, 32-page book.
Vocalist and guitarist Sam Willmett kind of attempts to explain: “All the songs were written in our summer holiday lull before we went away to tour (debut album) Green Dream in F♯ last year. Then we picked the lucky winners to go on the album when we got home around Christmas. “We just wrote every day we were home, mostly in the garden. That’s probably why it’s vaguely about birds. All the songs are in the order they were written apart from the last two which we swapped around. “I only actually remember writing one song. ‘Passionflower, Paperbacks and Woodlice’ which came about as I was sat by a passionflower when a woodlouse crawled over my paperback. I thought it looked and sounded nice.
“We wrote the wordy bits in one hit around the songs once the record was nearly done. One big story. We think the record is like a fall asleep relaxation tape with the cartoon ‘burd’ narrating and guiding you.”
‘Short and Round’ is The Bug Club at their most playful. Recalling The Soft Boys and The Kinks as much as their usual touchstones of The Moldy Peaches and The Modern Lovers, the track sees the band admiring an unnamed person’s barnet. And why not? They’re often worth admiring. It builds to a repetitive chorus before swaggering off with a solo they’ve chosen to fade out, just like they did on their debut single ‘We Don’t Need Room For Lovin’. Need to know more? Spare us an hour and four minutes. That’s what we’re asking of you here. It’s a big ask, these days.
But if you do, you’ll find yourself entrenched in an immersive world of The Bug Club. The other records – with the sardonic and surreal, the riffs and the obsession with outer space – were a run up. With Rare Birds… Sam, Tilly and Dan have created an expansive environment in which we can all bask in a cocktail of garage rock, poetry, nonsense, wordplay, sentimentality and fuck-offs. Ivor Cutler’s come round to play with Gordon Gano and Kimya Dawson in a semi-detached in Caldicot. They’ve made something you’re going to really like.