Buzzard Lope – Pyrrhic Victories Album Review

Buzzard Lope is an alt-pop trio from Bedford, Birmingham and Brazil who bonded over long drives round Europe in the rain, crammed in an old estate car with just their manager, keyboard, drum kit and double bass to keep them sane. A shared love of Waits sealed the deal for this trio’s earthy, layered sound. Add a dash of Dresden Dolls aggression to the mix and you’re somewhere close. The band have already shown their musical might with teaser track Millstone that delights in Stereolab-esque bombast and playfulness. You can download the track free from the band’s Bandcamp now.

Buzzard Lope have just released their debut album Pyrrhic Victories on Lost Toy Records. The album is a respectful nod to the husky romanticism of Tom Waits combined with the band’s own brand of musical dexterity.

From the self-deprecating folk jazz of Peak Of Evolution to the sublime single East By East and the slow burning majesty of The Dry Eyes Of E H Gombrich, Pyrrhic Victories masterfully blends front man Roger Illingworth’s distinctly husky vocals, reminiscent of Mark Lanegan, Adam Jarvis’ brooding double bass and Raphael Saib’s impeccable drumming. The band recorded, mixed, produced and mastered the album themselves retaining a signature style that refuses to be defined; it dives from towering emotional cliffs into quagmires of self-effacing humour.

Buzzard Lope

Buzzard Lope

Pyrrhic Victories is a unique album to say the least. Tracks like Peak Of Evolution show Buzzard Lope’s love for traditional village folk songs while other songs like Blue Arsed Fly resembles the sound familiar to The Beta Band. It’s a completely diverse album which will not fail to impress.

Walk Don’t Run is a dark, haunting track with Illingworth’s vocals appearing much more calm and sophisticated, leaving the much loved huskiness behind. It’s a dramatic number with  prolonged notes on the violin and crashing symbols that drown out the vocals. The piano plays a seductive yet secluded melody. The repetitive line, “I miss/You like/The ground…” is the focal point of this song; its repetition creates a poignant sweetness that can be heard in these lyrics. There’s meaning hidden between the lines.

Girls In The Straw is an acoustic, folk number similar in sound to Bon Iver. The acoustic guitar plays a pleasant melody while Illingworth’s natural and raw vocals steal the limelight. It’s probably the most gentle song on Pyrrhic Victories.

The Dry Eyes of E H Gombrich is an emotional song which is focused around the string compositions. The vocals could be said to be influenced by Leonard Cohen – they are deep, husky and simple. This song oozes class; there’s a narrative behind the lyrics, cleverly constructed string compositions that aid the emotion (the stretched, wavering notes linger and build the tension later in the track) and beautifully crafted sad melodies played on the piano. This is a song with true artistic meaning.

As the name suggests, East By East contains Eastern musical influences – the percussion is influenced by Indian percussion instruments such as the tabla. The other instruments and sounds heard in this track pull the Eastern influence together perfectly; they are played in such a way as to create this slow, deep and meditative tune.

Blue Bow is a wonderful song to finish this outstanding debut album with. Blue Bow sounds as if it has been recorded in an empty room in a house. It’s this emptiness and rough recording that allows this song to touch your heart. It features Illingworth and a piano with raw vocals where yet again Leonard Cohen influences can be heard. This song has been left alone, it hasn’t been tampered with. No production has tried to make this song sound generic – you can hear the odd background noise, the way Illingworth’s vocals sometimes crack, the odd duff note on the piano. The piano and the stripped back vocals say all that needs to be said about Buzzard Lope’s talents.

Buzzard Lope have released a mind-blowing debut album. It introduces their influences, showcases their diversity and expands their talents. They may well find it hard to follow this album up. The album’s title, Pyrrhic Victories, is actually redundant in this case. The long hours put into this record may well have felt like a defeat to the band at first but this album is a pure victory. Buzzard Lope should definitely feel a sense of achievement.

Pyrrhic Victories is out now on Lost Toy Records.

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