SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY – Oh, This Old Thing?
(2007 Science of Sound)
I’ll admit it, I was just the tiniest bit disappointed on my first listen to Sleeping in the Aviary’s debut CD Oh, This Old Thing? I’ve always been a partial to their well-mannered Dr. Jekyll acoustic incarnation as opposed to their untamed Mr. Hyde screamo side, and the 23 minutes of this disc definitely lean more toward Mr. Hyde. The disappointment was short-lived; after a couple listens their ridiculously catchy tunes have taken up permanent residence in my head. And though the surprisingly smart lyrics may not be immediately obvious, they are definitely here. Despite Elliott Kozel spitting the words out as if they taste bad, every clever line is discernible. Even so, the lyrics are included in a 16 page booklet that accompanies the disc, part of a slick digipak case illustrated with Kozel’s art.
His troubling yet intriguing artwork matches well the subject matter of the songs. Like a black and white primitive Picasso caught between the blue period and his descent into Cubism, Kozel draws people haunted by ghosts of despair and addiction, something the characters in these songs know well. “Hear your trembling too loud/ Filling in the dead space/ I know all your false alarms/ Now they’re sleeping in my place,” he discloses in the strutting “Lanugo,” a brash chunk of Libertine-style rock boosted by trombone and “ooh-ooh” and “bop bop” backing vocals. “Drug Suitcase” brings a Razorlight urgency to its confessional chorus of “Oh your body’s nice but your mind is a joke/ I’m sleeping in your clothes for the third night in a row/ You love other boys because I do.”
As much as the Aviary boys sometimes recall those British rock bands and their American counterpart the Strokes, they separate themselves with an urgency and primal energy absent from other bands. It may be their authentic DIY sound or it may be the brevity of the songs, only four break the two minute barrier, screamer “Maureen” only 33 seconds and opener “Face Lift Floats” a surprising 48. Like many of their songs, the latter is so lyrically packed as to seem much, much bigger. The terrific rhythm section behind the guitar, drummer Michael Sienkowski (formerly of the Eyebeams) and bassist Phil Mahlstadt, also play a large part in making these songs so remarkable.