Perhaps a quick history lesson is in order. Long ago, in the very distant past, there was a magical time when you couldn’t walk into a club without hearing a Riot Grrrl band. We’ll call this era “the late 1990s.” In those years (the tail end of third-wave feminism), Riot Grrrl bands sprung up in massive numbers, with idealistic (if sometimes convoluted) messages, and ambition that usually far outweighed their musical ability. They made it from show to show by shamelessly copying predecessors – the Bikini Kills, the Sleater-Kinneys, the Bratmobiles. The best of the early Riot Grrrl bands continued to evolve into new and better things (see: Le Tigre’s self-titled debut and Sleater-Kinney’s “One Beat” and “The Woods”), while other, less talented musicians drove the movement off a cliff, and into musical oblivion (see: Hole). It is impossible to listen to Follow That Bird’s new EP without referencing the Riot Grrrl context, as so much of what Follow That Bird does is rooted there (whether consciously or not). Thankfully, however, Follow That Bird combines indie rock and punk rock in a way that breaks with a lot of the cliché’s that brought down the Riot Grrrls. In doing so they have delivered a gem of an EP – one uses a vintage basement-lofi sound to capture the charming aesthetic of an old Kill Rock Stars vinyl.
From the EP’s opening moments, vocalist Lauren Green adopts the shrieks and wails made famous by Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, and uses them liberally. The vocal flourish is all over every one of EPs five songs, but Green executes it well, and manages to make it part of her own style. The opener, “Run With Knives” is dischordant and post-punky, with an aggressive and confident vocal delivery. This riff-driven opener is catchy, but is nonetheless eclipsed by the EP’s second song, “Stable Sound” — the record’s most melodic and least aggressive offering. It is the strongest song all around, and reminiscent of “Dig Me Out” era Sleater-Kinney. After the second song, the rest of this short record becomes increasingly noisy – less sweet and more harsh. “House Under The Sea” and “Line of Figments” are dark post-punk songs in the vain of Fugazi. Both tracks seem to lack energy and feel too shoe-gazey to be particularly memorable, however. The band seems to be at their best when the central focus of their songs is melody rather than guitar riffs. The EPs closer, “The Only Silence”, is another of the record’s highlights. It’s jagged rhythm and explosive chorus brings to mind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs first EP for Touch and Go.
As it stands, Follow That Bird is a good band, but not yet a great band. They are young (barely old enough to drink – if even that) and have all the components that will one day make a great band: admirable influences, talented musicians, and a strong emphasis on songwriting. This EP leaves the listener with a lingering sense that they have yet to put all of the pieces together in a way that helps them break free of their own influences. It is worth keeping an eye on Follow That Bird though, because if and when they do, they will be unstoppable.