Every release from Mike Keneally brings something different and Wing Beat Fantastic continues that trend. This time, it's songs written with XTC's Andy Partridge (who has been pretty inactive musically in the 2000s). However, it's still a Mike Keneally solo album, as Partridge doesn't appear on the album at all beyond a drum loop contribution (from the original demo recorded at Andy's in Swindon). Keneally has long been an unabashed XTC fan and that has certainly come out in some of Keneally's music before. Unsurprisingly, it's on full display here. Wing Beat Fantastic is a lush album with richly layered vocals (sometimes with effects) that lend a dreamlike quality. Musically, it most resembles Keneally's Wooden Smoke album with the emphasis on acoustic guitars, but this is definitely Keneally's most pop-oriented release to date (well, art pop anyway). Songs like "I'm Raining Here, Inside" and "You Kill Me" have Partridge's stamp all over them despite Keneally performing them ("I'm Raining Here, Inside" wouldn't sound out of place on Skylarking). Other tracks are more distinctly Keneally (the, uh, weirder ones toward the end). Keneally also wrote four brief instrumentals that sort of connect the other songs, further evoking Skylarking. These are contemplative songs and, as such, Keneally's soloing guitar heroics would be out of place here. There are no guitar solos to speak of until the end and, appropriately, it's no burner. Even the mostly instrumental "Inglow," with its guitars aplenty, is all about the melody of the song, not pyrotechnics. Wing Beat Fantastic is certainly Keneally's most pop-oriented project to date and quite possibly his most accessible as well. Be careful: you'll find some of these songs sticking in your head in a most insistent way.
Wing Beat Fantastic Review
by Sean Westergaard