Babybird’s latest album, Photosynthesis is an acquired taste.

Working under the banner of Babybird, singer Stephen Jones has put together what will surely be a divisive album. Photosynthesis covers themes of, love, loss, and politics, with an eclectic sound to boot.

The latest release is Jones’ platform to showcase an altogether sour perspective. The artist’s quirky sense of humour is also on full display.

The projects opening three sets the stage for the experience to come. ‘Too Late’ finds the artist singing lines like “hold you like a baby as we spin to the ground, too late..” ‘Beach Grave’ presses home that “it was that love that would kill me in the end”, while ‘October’ insists that its protagonist is “unlovable”.

The triple pack appears to take on themes of losing a relationship and depression. Dark lyrics coupled with Jones’ pained delivery carries off the sense of resigned despair effectively.

The backing track for ‘Too Late’ opens strongly. The tingling piano and what sounds like a bass drum work in tandem with a strong vocal performance, that somehow manages to be both tranquil and downbeat at the same time. The opening track then takes the listener by surprise as distorted drums come crashing in, lending the effort more thrust.

The musician’s performance even carries with it shades of an older David Bowie. Think 2013’s ‘Where Are We Now’ and you’ll be in the right ballpark.

‘October’ also proves to be a rare treat as it adopts a rock blues aesthetic to tell its tale of woe. Although it’s early in the LP, its relatively conventional and up-tempo style is like nothing else on this alternative record.

Whether the listener can enjoy Photosynthesis will likely be based on whether they are on the same wavelength as Jones.

As the record goes on Babybird’s vocals appear to get slower and more melancholic. This approach is used to bemoan the state of the world in’ Perfect Suburban Clone’ and ‘Cave In’.

During the latter the musician laments:
“so many technological diseases, the little rectangle is the new Jesus, it vibrates your soul with a chip of black gold as your brain cells deplete like sneezes…”

The problem with an offering such as ‘Cave In’ is that with the downbeat backing and the droning tone, it sparks a desire to rebel against the grouchy sentiment.
Certainly, with advancement comes issues, but the singer treats it all like it is the destruction of civilization. The grumpy artist makes valid points, but the gloomy melodrama is overkill.

The LP struggles with several small but potentially irritating problems.

‘Radioactive Stars’ turns the vocal distortion up to 11, making the lyrics a pain to take in and otherwise enjoyable instrumental interludes feel tacked on at the back end. Meanwhile, references to Saddam Hussein (‘Yeah I’m in Hollywood’) and dressing up “as my dead wife....” (‘Perfect Suburban Clone’ makes the creator’s brand of satire feel jarring rather than insightfully funny.

Overall, Photosynthesis holds some interesting moments with the synth and the live instruments meshing well at times. If you enjoy a melancholically bleak look at personal or societal issues, then this might be for you.

If carefree optimism is more your style, then give this one a miss.