Birds of Tokyo, one of Australia’s most popular rock bands, release Human Design which aims to be a personal album covering themes that every human being can relate to.
With previous big-hitters such as Plans, This Fire, and I’d Go With You Anywhere under their belt, as well as winning APRA’s songwriting award for “Rock Work Of The Year” six times since 2012, Birds of Tokyo know how to write a hit album. This particular record takes the brave move of being largely about lead singer Ian Kenny’s divorce. It’s bold to use an album for something that is so deeply personal and emotionally painful but is music the best form of therapy in this case?
The Greatest Mistakes opens the record with a happy-clappy backing track which is strangely at odds with the theme and the lyrics. It has quite the nineties feel and reminds of the band Crowded House as Kenny sings: Time and again I’d keep on returning, to the greatest mistakes I’ve made, but I’m learning this journey it ain’t over for me.”
Two of Us embraces a gospel choir which somehow ends up feeling like a nineties, sweeping and dramatic Madonna track. The synth-pop ballad in When Home Calls has a spiritual feel and is almost an acoustic solo despite the backing band. It’s a sad and haunting piece which is far-reaching and has beautiful, aching lyrics when you remember what the record is based around: “Home is you my love, where my heart belongs.”
Human Design reveals a far greater, sensitive, and personal exposure of the band’s music and the feelings that lie beneath. The ultimate track that creates a true connection with the listener is Good Lord, easily the best on the album. Because of the way the song is sung with greater sincerity than some of the other pieces, it has a raw and believable, connecting quality that is lacking in other places on the record. When Ian Kenny sings Good Lord he truly connects his feelings about the divorce and it’s the point in the album where I really believe him. It peels back the layers of a breakdown and doesn’t flinch from the raw angst of its theme.
It’s worth noting that Birds of Tokyo have embraced online performing as a result of the current pandemic and have even launched this album as part of a unique TV concert called Music From The Home Front for the Fight against Covid-19. Human Design doesn’t always hit its target as a universally connectable album but on the occasions that it does. It does so brilliantly.