Margate, for those of you who don’t know it, is a weird place. Formerly the domestic holiday destination of choice, through the 50s and 60s it was boom time for the town, with amusements springing up, the beach front christened ‘The Golden Mile’, arcades, candy floss, cheeky banter, rolled up trousers and chips by the sea. Now most of this is crumbling, cheap foreign holidays luring away the British coin. Dreamland, the flagship amusement park, is an abandoned giant, and its skeleton rides loom over a Golden Mile made up of fruit machines and (anything but) fun pubs. And, despite the recent regeneration of the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery, unemployment is high, fights are common and the town feels haunted by past glories. It’s little surprise then that Margate 4 piece Two Wounded Birds have made a debut so rooted in the ghostly 50s and 60s styles that echoe through the streets.
Their sound is made of spectral, sometimes malevolent melodies, heartbreak lyrics and abyss sized reverb—The Cramps as covered by The xx (or the other way round..). Early single Night Patrol pointed the way, with its subterrainian surf riffs and brooding David Lynch atmospherics, and they have a couple more rumbling, Link Wrey indebted moments to share on the album, notably instrumental track The Last Supper and the mysterious My Lonesome. Outside of this, rather than sticking to a creeping surf pastiche, the band open up their sound- taking in huge Phil Spectre production, the pure euphoric good times of the Beach Boys—opening track Together Forever literally having a chorus of “Fun, fun, fun” over pounding surf drums, and on Daddy’s Junk they let rip a genius hellbent piano madness nicked straight from Little Richard.
The albums weakest moments are when they move too far away from their retro influences—it finishes on 3 introspective tracks that are more indie-by-numbers and, coming one after another, blend together into something less than they are capable of. Still, other than this dip at the albums close, Two Wounded Birds have made a decent debut, dark and mesmeric as a midnight sea.