ALBUM REVIEW: Pigeon Wigs – ‘Rock By Numbers’

Artwork for Pigeon Wigs’ ‘Rock By Numbers’

When you think about South Wales, do you imagine hedonist joyrides through the desert? Perhaps not. Maybe tearing up lush meadows. Either way, they fit into the imaginations of Pigeon Wigs, looking to breathe some Cardiffian seaside air into rock ‘n’ roll’s lungs.

Throwback acts mimicking rock’s past seems to be part of the genre’s future, one considered to be a dying art. That’s not exactly helped by ultra-successful vampires Måneskin bleeding its novelty dry or Greta Van Fleet doing their best classic rock cosplay. Luckily, Pigeon Wigs bring multiple rock tropes together faster, harder and with all the middle-fingers-up ballast, cigarettes suitably dropping from their lips. If rock’s throughline is all about fucking with convention, there’s certainly one way to go about it; this five-piece decided to make this mini-record in just a few weeks, in a living room, without playing a single live show.

It’s as cheeky a plan as their debut’s self-referential name—Rock By Numbers—defined as “a love letter to all that music has done for us, full of fuzz and boundless energy”. It’s truly a hand-picked jukebox of ‘60s and ‘70s worship, yet a mightily assured rendition of blues rock, presumably written and recorded from a sofa. Straightaway Near The Knuckle carries plentiful delightful twang, with a chorus built around an ascending riff and noodling fills. Harry Franklin William’s vocal “Ooh-ooh! She’s gonna leave me!” sound like he’s completely delighted about it, while a foot-stomping, fist-pumping outro seals the deal.

If Creedence Clearwater Revival is more your jam, Heavy Low channels pure-cut ‘60s folk and slightly skewed House Of The Rising Sun chords through Louis Jugessur’s vintage sunburn Yamaha. It’s slow build of backing acoustic strums and dusty ol’ bass across its six minute saunter, while similarly blues-wearing War-Torn Warriors has the nylon strings, lazy leads and jail cell harmonica to give that Americana extra heft. Less like wallowing on a porch step, Radiation Blues revolves around a stonking riff evoking the scuzz of a cowboy drinking hole. It goes through the motions of an ensuing bar fight: snare and cymbal smashes are wielded JD bottles, there’s a strutting alpha-male Billy Gibbons solo, the angular riffs act like pool cues to the head. Going Nowhereacts as the bombastic dive bar getaway vehicle, motoring your roadhog through Nashville to, well, nowhere in particular. It fittingly gives fleeting moments of respite too: some refreshing Big Gulps on the way.

The group manages to add splashes of inspired choices on top of these audio-westerns. Death Of A King’s ever-so-slightly deranged janky intro turns into tinkling piano chords for some sort of tawdry desert balladry. But there’s also crooning saxophone, which indulges itself in a vibrant solo trip to the song’s end, what you could name ‘the Bojack Horseman sax denouement’. Lead singer Hold Up! is complete with soulful doo wop accompaniments to Franklin-Williams’ Jagger-esque vocals and a bloody delicious midsection of keys going buckwild.

Consisting of many songs constructed out of romantic and familial turbulence, there’s still a hopeful and humorous outlook at the end of it all. Come Of Age lyrically portrays familiar put downs from non-believers about personal growth—“you’ll never be so free”, “you’re never gonna be the same”—set to horn-fuelled vaudeville polka to micky-take the ridiculousness behind these accusations. At the end, “you’ll soon shine”, while the violins of You Play Me (Live) supply a short tender moment of reflection preceding another—the dual-vocal piano led outro of Epilogue 6.

Rock revivalism may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s wonderful reprisals of psychedelia and DIY garage rock all over to discover too, but you can’t forget the whisky soaked rock vintage that instantaneously makes for a rollicking time. Pigeon Wigs sound confident enough to swagger their way from the living room to the bigger stage, as these pistol-whip Rock By Numbers cuts attest. Let’s party.

For fans of: The Lemon Twigs, Cage the Elephant, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

‘Rock By Numbers’ by Pigeon Wigs is released on 7th July on Clwb Music.

Words by Elliot Burr

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