Bye Bye Blackbirds Delivers Excellent Local Guitar Rock and Power Pop

15 May

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It’s always nice to write about local bands. And the Oakland-based Bye Bye Blackbirds have made it very easy to do that with their excellent album, We Need the Rain.

Curiously, I’m not sure how the title relates to Northern California’s urgent need right now for water in the midst of a severe drought. There are no songs among the album’s ten tracks entitled “Our Reservoirs Have Gone Dry” with, I suppose, analogies to a waning love affair or “Waiting for the Storms to Roll In,” perhaps as a metaphor for a troubled relationship.

But no matter. We Need the Rain is really well done, guitar-driven rock and power pop in the style of the Kinks or Badfinger or at times even REM or Neil Young from his days with Crazy Horse. Lead man and songwriter, Bradley Skaught, shines on his accomplished guitar work and vocals. Several of the songs pay homage to the artists mentioned above, but they do it in a way that isn’t so much of a tribute as an original interpretation of a musical style.

“All in Light” gets the album off to a terrific rocking, stomping start. This is a great power pop anthem with crunching guitars, thumping drums and rich harmonies in a really catchy melody. “Like a Thief” follows that with more straight-ahead, driving rock and roll. This tune is definitely reminiscent of REM at its best — just a great song.

“Butterfly Drinks” is a fun, George Thorogood, blues-rock, sound-alike that I’m sure would be amazing at a live performance. “Shook Down Softly is another sparkling example of power pop, with rich harmonies and hooks that are impossible to ignore. And “Waiting for the Drums” conjures up images of rock radio from the 1970s with its memorable melody and solid garage-y guitar licks.

The album ends with a nod to another Bay Area rocker, Neil Young. “Spin your Stars” features sharply picked rhythm guitar work overlaid with outstanding lead guitar solos. On the longish side at 6+ minutes, it’s a leisurely closer for the set.

If you like guitar-oriented rock or power pop, the Bye Bye Blackbirds is your kind of band — and mine.

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