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Album Review: Algernon Cadwallader - Parrot Flies

A formidable driving force behind a new wave of 90’s emo revival that is also the prerogative of bands such as Snowing and 1994!, Algernon Cadwallader hit us with the highly anticipated follow-up
to 2008’s ‘Some Kind of Cadwallader’, straight out of their basement in West Philadelphia.

Algernon Cadwallader have not yet been able to shake off their tag as the band that have a ‘Kinsella’ sound without actually having a Kinsella family member in the line-up, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. As strong as their individual sound is, it is also very strongly influenced by a particular brand of 90’s emo that the Kinsella’s pioneered, so it is almost ridiculous to try to describe their sound without also drawing on those bands as stylistic reference points.

The sonic foundations of Algernon Cadwallader were laid down almost single-handedly by Cap’n Jazz, but that is not so say that the structure as a whole stands as a replica. Both artists cultivate a sloppiness that has been meticulously arranged, characterized by raw, emotive vocal yelps and chaotic, overlapping guitar lines that can tumble right past you if you fail to strap yourself in and roll along with them. However, Algernon’s approach to the genre has always been less delicate and more consistently upbeat – pumping out rhythms within which calmness and calamity wrestle for dominance, and they have certainly stuck with this on ‘Parrot Flies’.

Overall, ‘Parrot Flies’ has a decidedly dirtier and grittier sound in comparison to ‘Some Kind of Cadwallader’. They still wield a remarkable ability to pepper albums with hooks from start to finish, but with ‘Parrot Flies’ their presence is more subtle. Rather than jumping straight at you, they lay down quietly waiting to be discovered. In comparison, the first album saw the vocal melodies guiding you through the tracks, but with ‘Parrot Flies’ the guitars have more clarity. They don’t take over the vocal lines inasmuch as they are evenly levelled; each with its own catchy melodies running alongside each other, occasionally dipping and weaving in an exchange of dominance over the song.

To say that Algernon Cadwallader have entered entirely new territory with this album would be an overstatement (especially considering the three year gap between full length releases), but they have begun to explore avenues that were left uncharted on the first album. For example, a tendency to slide into prolonged yet absorbing Pavement-style jams (on ‘Springing Leaks’ in particular), a guitar tone often evocative of Dinosaur Jr., and ‘Glenwood Ave.’ with its kaleidoscopic melodies is reminiscent of a giddier American Football. They seem to be at the beginning of a move away from the cleaner-cut twinkly tones of their earlier career, whilst retaining their knack for unconventional melodies that divulge something new with each listen. That is why Algernon Cadwallader, like their 90’s precursors, have a replay value that refuses to be forgotten within a few months. They will endure decades.


Emma Garland

Alter The Press!