Conversation Piece

A Lot Like Birds

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Conversation Piece Review

by William Ruhlmann

On Plan B, the debut album by Sacramento, California band A Lot Like Birds, the group was an amorphous collection of musicians from the local scene assembled by guitarist/singer Michael Franzino. For the second album, Conversation Piece, the outfit has coalesced into a unit in which Franzino is joined by guitarist Ben Wiacek, bassist Michael Littlefield, and drummer Joe Arrington, supporting the alternately singing and screaming vocals of Kurt Travis and Cory Lockwood. The musical style also has become more focused, although A Lot Like Birds still court a degree of anarchy, their punk-influenced hard rock edging toward heavy metal sometimes, but occasionally subsiding into near-ambient passages. Franzino seems to have been influenced by ‘80s West Coast bands like Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, while also wanting to incorporate elements of new age and jazz fusion. The singer/screamers convey angst and bombast, as reflected in song titles like "The Blowtorch Is Applied to the Sugar" and "What Didn't Kill Me Just Got Stronger." The band's intentions are most fully realized on the seven-minute "Tantrum," which takes the musicians into all of the stylistic realms that interest Franzino. It's a complicated vision, and if the group has narrowed its reach on Conversation Piece, this remains an ambitious, if a little ragged, bunch of musicians.

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