A bonxie is an alpha predator bird, one which is near to the top of the food chain, and as such it has a fearsome reputation. The album Bonxie is a far gentler proposition. It is one of those rare albums that takes sounds and ideas from a number of genres, randomly placed bird song, and asks its audience to leave all preconceptions at the door before entering. Fronted by Doctor Brian Briggs as lead singer and songwriter, Stornoway take in soulful, sax-driven pop, hymnal moods, keening and string laden ‘60s style pop, and folksy moods on a sonic palette that whilst maintaining the work and audience for their first two albums, attracts newer fans with a bigger sound and expectations.
Songs such as ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ contains the big music that made Simple Minds and U2 so popular, bird song is used as both a musical and rhythmic part of the soundscape during ‘Lost Youth’, whilst the sound of a band reaching for new ground is heard in the EBow guitar work of the stately ballad ‘Heart of the Great Alone’. ‘80s style dance synth sounds infuse ‘Get Low’ and ‘Man On Wire’ is a great slice of retro ‘60s styled pop, whilst the opening ‘Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea’ is an atmospheric ballad, full of deft changes in time signatures and dynamic. With an undulating acoustic guitar figure, this is pop music that is designed to lift the spirit. ‘Josephine’ is perhaps the album’s most “folk” track, with little more than acoustic guitar, and pitch perfect harmony vocals, it sounds like a lost Simon & Garfunkel track, which is never a bad thing. The catchiest track on the album, ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’ has one of those Beach Boys soundscapes, with strings and brass investing the song with a great swoon of aural joy.
It is often said that pop music is only for the young, but each generation has its own pop music, and although this album will not be to everyone’s taste, it is a different world to spend some time with. Like a good book, the audience can return to it time after time and always find something new to like within its eleven tracks.