Brendan Kelly and The Wandering Birds - Keep Walkin' Pal (Cover Artwork)

Brendan Kelly and The Wandering Birds

Keep Walkin' Pal (2018)

Red Scare Industries

Brendan Kelly is one weird dude. I think. Or maybe not. I’m not sure. But, his second affair with The Wandering Birds is, without a doubt, is pretty darn weird. I don’t think that’s really a bad thing though. Keep Walkin’ Pal is refreshing to listen to, even though it may not palatable to some veteran listeners of Kelly’s previous work.

The opening track, which happens to be the title track, threw me off a bit (these lyrics are revisited on the last track with a completely different sound). Prior to listening to the entire album in succession, I had heard a few grimy, synth-laden songs. But the opening track is audibly similar to Kelly’s acoustic stuff from previous releases, so I wasn’t quite sure how the record was going to play out. The first track is a curve ball though, because the rest of the album leans more towards an experimental ‘80s sound, starting with the lead single, “Shitty Margarita”. From there on, the album rarely sways from this idea.

While the sonic atmosphere is noticeably different from previous releases, this album still nurtures his classic sound. Lines like “regret don’t stand a motherfuckin’ chance against my shitty margarita” are catchy as hell and maintain that same ‘ole raspy vocal delivery and phrasing that we all love. “Black Cat Boy” is also reminiscent of previous Brendan Kelly songs, while heading into some creepy territory with lyrics like “when they catch me, I know they’ll flay me of my skin”. Horror-esque lyrics like this are peppered throughout the album on various different songs, which forces you to listen deeper.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill”, which starts off with a western style player piano. But after the second line of the first verse, I realized this ain’t no western. Ya got me Brendan, Ya got me. It is a reference to Silence of the Lambs, from the point of view of the killer. Sung from this perspective, lyrics like “I wanna watch the sunrise through your skin” might give you shivers. Creepy as hell.

Overall, this record confused me. I wasn’t sure how to rate it simply because it sounded so different. After almost every track I asked myself, “What the hell was that song about?”, which forced me to revisit the songs often. And after listening to it a few times, I realized that it actually isn’t that big of a departure from their first album. Even though they play around with a different sound, the songs are still enjoyable and memorable. I hear “Shitty Margarita” playin’ in my head every night when I try to go to sleep, which is actually pretty relieving since the lyrics are extremely tame compared to the rest of the album.