Lazarus Clamp – The Bird Is Not The Metaphor

Lazarus Clamp - The Bird Is Not The Metaphor

Lazarus Clamp – The Bird Is Not The Metaphor

Since originally surfacing in the mid-to-late ‘90s, Lazarus Clamp’s wares have regularly been filed alongside the likes of Billy Mahonie, Appliance and Mogwai, as part of the British response to the pioneering US post-rock boom of the early-‘90s.  Yet whilst it’s true that the band – led by the indomitable Michael Larkin – has never shied away from keeping up Karate chops or Slint slanting, there’s always been far more to Lazarus Clamp than lazy categorising would suggest.  In fact, even on 1999’s intrepid debut LP – the tongue-twistingly-titled Such As You Are And Still Not Seeming To Mind – the Lazarus Clamp sound embraced rustic edges and more bespoke artisanship.  Now, with more than twenty years on the clock, Larkin and co. deliver an album which strongly celebrates a diverse development arc, the vitality of group dynamics and genuinely great songwriting.

Already having reached a seemingly unsurpassable peak with 2009’s adorable Against Entitlement, wherein the ensemble tightly coiled itself around around some of Larkin’s most reflective and refined core compositions, the long-anticipated The Bird Is Not A Metaphor has a lot to live up to.  Happily though, the twelve gathered songs are some of the finest in the Lazarus Clamp canon to date.  Even though the slightly looser recording aesthetics and darker lyrical content may initially throw a few Against Entitlement-enabled converts off the scent, with almost each and every listen The Bird brings forth something special to the table.

Rampantly eclectic but cohesively sequenced, this is a record that holds together strongly as a collection of interconnected set-pieces, featuring moments of both fierce embattlement and calming release.  Most noticeable on preliminary spins are a raucous string of seething but intelligent epics; specifically the allegorical politically-frustrated Fugazi-via-Full House-era-Fairport-Convention channelling of “Horse,” the Last Harbour-meets-Shellac personal despair of “This Is How I Cut My Own Throat” and the sprawling chamber-folk-rock of “Things Are Sticky.”  Digging further in, more intimate and sonically pared-back moments can be found, such as the forlorn relationship anxiety examinations of “Tethered Not Caged,” the almost Shakespearian romance of “We Are In Water” and the macabre metaphorical acid-folk trip of “Magpie.”

Yet amongst the more downcast and plaintive passages, The Bird also proffers some openly uplifting moments; such as the angular yet nimble “Latch,” the infectious snaking guitar riff and handclap driven “Dirty Name,” the joyous jacking-in-the-day-job anthem “Let’s Get Fired,” the afterhours sing-along of “100 Watt Bulb” and the euphoric early-Triffids swing of “Simple And Easy.”  Throughout the multiple genre and emotional ziz-zags the album takes it’s very much evident that Larkin’s imaginative lyrical explorations form a fulcrum to the songs but the intuitive group arrangements are essential in bringing them to life; with Tom McClure’s highly versatile violin-playing worthy of special mention for joining the dots between Dave Swarbrick and Andrew Bird.

Although The Bird Is Not A Metaphor may not reach too far beyond the existing fanbase that has sustained Lazarus Clamp’s reliable part-time existence over the last two decades, it certainly deserves to be heard far more widely.  In short, this is an album for all discerning lovers of imaginative songs straight from the head, the heart and the gut.

Damnably / Little Red Rabbit Records

(Release Note: The Bird Is Not A Metaphor is currently only available via the Lazarus Clamp Bandcamp store until a wider release on April’s Record Store Day)