Historically, Wrexham could hardly be described as a hotbed for music. Yet local four-piece Mowbird plus fellow Dee Valley dwellers Camera, Baby Brave and Lovers Open Fire look set to put the North Wales town on the musical map. Formed in 2010, Mowbird have been steadily earning themselves a reputation as one of the most enterprising, and eccentrically uncompromising bands in Wales ever since first EP Excellent, OK saw the light of day some three-and-a-half years ago.
Since then - their live show equally if not more boisterous than on record - they've put out a handful of singles and EPs, most recently via DIY imprints Popty Ping for last month's 'Happy Active Horse Organ' 7-inch and now with Shape Records for Islander, their debut long player.
Comprising 11 songs, many of which clock in around or under the two minutes mark, it's difficult to envisage boredom being an issue where this exceedingly hyperactive quartet are concerned. Fusing garage punk nuance with a lo-fi aesthetic somewhere between the fledgling punk scene and C86 sensibilities, they're a dynamic force to be reckoned with yet anything but twee if Islander's mostly rumbustious compositions are anything to go by.
Opening in a hail of squalling feedback and aggressive post-punk styled riffs, 'Return To The Sea' kickstarts Islander into life frenetically. Several parts Seafood and others, Johnny Foreigner, Suzanne Dempsey's prominent Farfisa organ is the main facet setting Mowbird apart from their peers and contemporaries.
Take the short-but-sweet 'Brompton': 97 seconds of stuttering garage punk, like ? And The Mysterians had they emerged a decade or so later. 'The Yellow Fog' keeps up the pace, allowing little time to become over familiar and subsequently, uninteresting. Aforementioned 45 'Happy Active House Organ' delivers a mixture of pop and grunge akin to Manic Street Preachers staple 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart', albeit slightly more shambolic in stature. The title track also provides an unforeseen diversion from the norm, centered around a tense piano-led melody and poignant lyrics far and away from Islander's largely happy-go-lucky sentiment.
Harsh instrumental 'Fruit With Husk' returns the noise element with seismic haste while the delightfully titled 'Andre the Giant' bounces around like a teenager discovering amphetamines for the first time. The Nirvana-esque 'Holy Moly' conveys inter-relationship angst to a tee ("I don't wanna be with you again") while 'Empress' takes the punk pop bull by the horns before riding it full throttle on a 94-seconds-long smash and grab raid. 'Hail Yes!' thrashes itself into meltdown, clocking in at little over one minute while album closer 'Playmate' veers off into Drenge/Kills blues rock territory.
Enticing, pulsating and ultimately addictive from beginning to end, Islander sounds as if it might spontaneously combust at any given moment. However, such exuberant bursts of spontaneity only serve to heighten its appeal, and after that initial first listen, one can only guarantee you'll be back for more. Welcome to the delightfully untidy world of Mowbird.
8Dom Gourlay's Score