What: The Mynabirds
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: hi-dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver, 720-570-4500
Laura Burhenn said she’s been quoting the late political activist, Emma Goldman, a lot lately.
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution.”
The Mynabirds frontwoman has been repeating those words so frequently because they serve as a concise, poetic explanation of the band’s latest album, GENERALS. It’s a protest record that’s been in the works since Burhenn wrote the first song just after 9/11, and it contains the release of frustrations that have been building up since then.
“The political frustrations and disappointments, not only in politics but just the condition of humanity, I’ve been ruminating on that,” she said.
But GENERALS isn’t overwhelmed with the message. It’s not in-your-face political. The music stands on its own for a gritty, sultry, sometimes exotic pop-rock sound that could easily be mistaken for something recorded in the ‘70s.
And that’s the reason Burhenn comes back to Goldman’s words so often. She wanted the record to be good music first, and a protest second. She also didn’t want to sound like she was whining.
“I put a lot of effort into the craft of the lyrics,” she said. “I think I wanted some poetry around it for sure, but you know, I think I didn’t want the entire record to be complaining or shouting about what’s wrong.”
The only song that feels like an outright protest song is the title track, with the chorus “Calling all my Generals / My Daughters / My Revolutionists / We got strength in numbers / And they’re gon’ to pay for it.” It also features a call and response, which Burhenn said gets a strong response from crowds.
“It’s a call to action,” she said. “It’s a reminder that even though we’re against so much, we really have strength in numbers.”
The timing for the album release — in the midst of a presidential election — is only partially a coincidence. The real connection, though, is the Occupy Wall Street movement. When Burhenn started to see people rising up, she felt like it was finally time to pull the record together.
But again, don’t brush The Mynabirds or GENERALS off because of the concept. Burhenn made sure the record still felt positive, and while you certainly shouldn’t ignore the lyrics, the songs are just as excellent without them.
The album covers a lot of ground. “Body of Work” has a clunking, jangling jungle beat, while “Let The Record Go” is almost menacing, with a thumping rhythm and steadily pumping dark chords from the piano. Throughout the whole album, Burhenn’s voice is alluring and dripping with feeling, and it helps hold the album together, despite the range of styles.
Then there’s the older work from The Mynabirds. What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood, for instance, feels much more light and ‘60s pop-like. “Numbers Don’t Lie” is a vampy and sounds particularly like an oldies radio hit, thanks to an echoing choir of backup singers.
The Mynabirds tour will bring the band to the hi-dive Thursday, Aug. 9, so check it out and hear old school goodness for yourself.