Reviews Brendan Kelly & The Wandering Birds Keep Walkin’ Pal

Brendan Kelly & The Wandering Birds

Keep Walkin’ Pal

Does the world really need a ska-tinged surf song about waterboarding? How you answer that question will probably answer how you feel about this record as a whole. Not that such a concept is really a surprise for those who have followed Brendan Kelly’s musical output and sense of humor over the years. 

While I personally think “Boardin’ USA” feels like a throwaway, perhaps a B-side on an obscure 7”, the record as a whole doesn’t fit that vibe—just pieces of it. Half of Keep Walkin’ Pal picks up where I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever left off, which is something of a character exploration of a creepy, criminal old man. In fact, I was going to lead this review off by saying, Brendan Kelly definitely has the creepy old man thing down. After seeing both his solo set and The Lawrence Arms at The Fest this year, I’d say he even has the costume down. “Bottle and Tray” hits that persona perfectly, and the aptly titled “Up in Them Guts” cuts straight to the point, lyrically proclaiming, “I’m a dirty old man with dirty old dreams.” It’s uncomfortable though Kelly admittedly does a good job with the character study, meanwhile mixing well-crafted melodies to off-putting subject matter. It’s a bit of a study in contrast.

The rest of the record varies. It’s about one-quarter personal(ish), with the opening title track utilizing the first-person narrative, albeit not in that honest, straight-forward manner we’ve come to expect of solo punk rockers. Then it cuts into “Shitty Margarita,” which plays up the joy of its namesake drink with a strong synth presence that carries into the even sillier “Huggz.” There’s a lot of stylistic stuff going on here, usually mixed in the background while Kelly’s persona is vocal in the forefront of the song. It’s classic Kelly songwriting with a lot of experimental nuances: one-half creepy, one-quarter personal, one-quarter wacky. Sometimes it works really well, like in “Shitty Margarita,” sometimes it has that side project feel (“Boardin’ USA). At times the lyrics play on his previous work with a nod to the dedicated followers.

Overall, Keep Walkin’ Pal has some shining moments and it can even be a lot of fun, but it’s also a record that will primarily appeal to Kelly’s already established audience. Time has caught up with Kelly a little, as there’s some gristle in his voice compared to earlier releases. The record is satisfying, but it doesn’t hit any new musical peaks—and maybe pushes listeners to explore their own lows in the process.

7.1 / 10Loren
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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7.1 / 10

7.1 / 10

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