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Culture: This band's time is now; POST REVIEWS Shady Bard Flapper and Firkin, Birmingham *****.

Byline: Simon Harper

With their new single Penguins receiving rapturous reviews already, Birmingham's finest new band Shady Bard returned for the home leg of their first full UK tour.

What's most impressive about the folk-inspired quintet's rise is that they've earned it via word of mouth, hard work and most importantly, consistently crafting beguilingly beautiful songs.

No hype has been necessary and this performance, coupled with their growing catalogue of releases on Birmingham's excellent Static Caravan label, serves to underline just what a special act they are.

The sublime folk-pop of Fires gets a welcome outing, and it's indicative of the touching songs which Shady Bard have in spades.

Lyrically, they deal with themes such as nature and more personal subject matter. This duality is a central part of the glorious whole, with the two thematic strands sitting effortlessly alongside each other.

It's particularly successful on the gentle, piano-led These Quiet Times, where vocals soar and melt while cello and violin provide a swooning undercurrent.

There is a nastier edge to their music as well, though. Treeology features a scuzzy, fuzzed-up mid-section, with guitars straining and screaming, akin to the dissonance usually associated with acts such as Sonic Youth.

But the five-piece take most of their musical cues from the quieter end of the musical spectrum.

Citing the work of Grandaddy, Sparklehorse, Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci as inspiration, they often evoke the controlled slow-building intensity of Spiritualized with their most eloquent vignettes.

Penguins is arguably the most complete song in their arsenal, arranged so that disparate layers of sound build to create a radiant yet achingly fragile masterpiece.

It's the highlight of a bewitching performance, but newer songs prove that they are still getting better. Shady Bard are the hottest act to emerge from Birmingham for years, and their time is now.

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Destined for great things: Birmingham's Shady Bard
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 7, 2006
Words:314
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