MUSIC REVIEW | Birds of Tokyo – Universes (2008)


A pounding kick drum is always a great way to start a song. An even better way to start an album and set an agenda. And it’s the ultimate start when I’m listing to a band for the very first time. As I did today with Birds of Tokyo and Universes.

Ignoring the first track, 50 seconds of pointlessness, Broken Bones is the beginning proper of Universes and it reminds me of Jimmy Eat World in a really great way. There’s vulnerability in the vocals, but the instruments are all confidence.

Usually, when I write about an album, I take notes track by track, then listen one or two more times as I arrange those notes and see if there’s any consistency to what works (for me) and what doesn’t. The problem with Universes is, I kept getting too caught up in just listening and loving it, that I kept forgetting to take notes.

Wild Eyed Boy and Silhouettic continue that Jimmy Eat World vein, but I hate keeping my praises to a comparison with another band. This album deserves a lot more than that. It deserves me finding a way to better articulate why I enjoy it so much.

Things might slow down and quiet down for Head in My Hands, but once its slow burn becomes a steady freight train, it’s an unstoppable rocker that proves tempo and energy aren’t the same thing.

Dabbling in a little rock / punk / metal, never with too much of any of those, White Witch and An Ode to Death show how wide the Birds of Tokyo range is, while always keeping enough of their signature sound so you know you’re listening to Birds of Tokyo.

As the shredding began on Armour for Liars, I realised Universes had managed to be an awesome rock record without relying on flashy guitar solos. So when it finally does unleash some serious axe work here, it all of a sudden has a whole new dimension that I’d never even noticed it was missing.

The Bakers Son, Train Wrecks and Medicine… Well, they can’t all be zingers.

If you are as behind the times as me and haven’t given Birds of Tokyo a go, this is a pretty amazing place to start. The rest of their discography could be better, worse, or anywhere in between. Buggers me. But I can say for a fact that Universes is an awesome new millennium rock album with just enough 90s nostalgia to its sound. Just make sure you turn off after track eight and ignore that final trifecta of clunkers.

Birds of Tokyo

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