The Earlybirds Favourite Fears (Warner Music) CD REVIEW

August 19, 2010
1 min read

This album makes me despair of local rock music. Favourite Fears (what the heck does that mean?) is probably a wet dream to Brendan Smythe/NZ On Air, but out in the real world, it’s a lame duck.

The most distinctive thing about The Earlybirds is probably their singer’s name. He calls himself ‘Filip’. This chap does his boy band-type vocals over music that, in the verses, sounds like wannabe Joy Division/Cure, but in the choruses swells to pompous Radiohead going on Muse gigantism. Sometimes there is even an orchestra to go with the New Wave guitars.

The Earlybirds seem profoundly depressed – perhaps they could try sleeping in a bit later? But it’s just a pose, they’ve nothing constructive to write about the experience, just lines like “I’m feeling lower than low” and “I can’t live without you”. Gee, where have I heard that one before?

The Earlybirds make music-by-numbers that’s all the worse for its grandiose pretensions. They’re like a teen version of Muse without the vivacity, with some old-fashioned sell-out pub rock thrown in for good measure.

Much ado about nothing, Favourite Fears is a record of calculatedly radio-friendly choruses in search of songs to go with them, blind ambition from those too young to know better, and a desperate, craven music industry too stupid to invest in anything of quality. It’s about the worst thing I’ve heard all year.

Sound: Average. GARY STEEL

Sound = 2.5

Music = 0

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. Interesting comments – quite the exact opposite of the review on TVNZs Breakfast show where the album was given a 5 star review and the reviewer commented how she could not stop listening to it for 3 days!
    Personally I think it is an absolutely fantastic album. I bought my copy yesterday and fully recommend it.
    – This review simply sounds like the reviewer has an axe to grind, perhaps the music is not his cup of tea? A little too sophisticated maybe, i.e. not the usual Beer & Rugby sound that New Zealand is used to???

  2. Clive – sophisticated the Earlybirds music is not. ‘Beer and rugby sound that NZ is used to?’ What? If you think that’s my bag, check my other reviews. As for Hunkin’s review for TVNZ’s Breakfast show – pass the sick bag, I smell cronyism.

  3. @Clive Well, it’s just a difference of opinion. This guy doesn’t like clichéd pop-rock, whereas the Breakfast show reviewer does.

    Calling this stuff sophisticated is a joke, and your comment on ‘the usual Beer & Rugby sound’ is a very close-minded insult to the rest of NZ music.

  4. i think new zealand should be proud of a band so young and full of talent, ok you might not like the music (its obviously not “cool” enough for you) but they can seriously play and there are answers to be found in the music. I just dont think youre listening hard enough

    its a pity

    ps radio-friendly isnt a bad thing like you make it out to be, look at the beatles for example

  5. sounds like this guy’s problem is with the music industry itself and NZONAIR’s choices for giving grants

    “probably a wet dream to Brendan Smythe/NZ On Air”
    “a desperate, craven music industry too stupid to invest in anything of quality”

    get over it
    go cry somewhere else
    dont drag this band down into your sad little hole

  6. My problem is that the public have spent unknowingly, $50K just to have this dire band hyped up and fed back to us. Then, we’re asked to spend more cash on the product and gigs. Anyone who has ever read my reviews will know I’m not against ‘radio friendly’. Byron’s pointed about The Beatles is ironic: they were a band who weren’t afraid to be original, to go against the grain, be imaginative and unique and have something to say. The Earlybirds don’t qualify in any of those categories.

  7. so if youre problem ISNT with the band then why are you attacking them? They were offered a grant to make an album and they took it like anyone would!
    I’ve looked at your other reviews and i can tell you have obviously pulled this album up to review it so you could moan about it

    oh and by the way when the beatles started out they werent original at all their songs where very mainstream pop for that time and half of them they didnt even write, more boy bandish than the earlybirds too
    ps i love you and i saw her standing there isnt really having “something to say” now is it

  8. Tammy, I don’t really have a problem. But the issue is twofold: 1) the funding bodies wasted $50K on a crap album of soundalike tosh, and 2) It’s a crap album of soundalike tosh. You’re right about The Beatles – they didn’t really get good until ’65/’66. But you’re missing perspective on those times, and how unique they were in their time. By taking American music and throwing uniquely English cover versions back at the Americans, the group created hysteria. Even on their early albums (the song ‘PS, I Love You’ for instance) the band (or Paul McCartney, in this instance) was effortlessly better at song composition than the Earlybirds will ever be… and effortlessly more characterful and original.

  9. Hahaha, gary, really come on this is just hate-preaching! All you are trying to do is insult them, you’re attempts are very transparent. You really havent added anything constructive to the mix and it really seems like you didnt even listen to the album, as much as you would like to make us believe you did. This review isnt very professional, hence why its only on the internet! Pull your head out of your own arse man. Stick to reviewing the bands you like, you know the ones that make you think youre unique for listening to them?

  10. It’s hilarious how you think that the only people who like them are friends or family!
    Cronyism? You’re pathetic

  11. Sounds like someone has a touch of the tall poppy syndrome. This would have to be the worst review I have read all year, I hope you haven’t given up your day job. To rate this album the way you did you either didn’t bother to listen to it or you were trying grab some attention for your sad self. I agree with Peter.

  12. You really have hit the nail right on the head.

    On listening to this I thought “this is an imitation of feeling” It has no soul. The music does not express or communicate anything real. These guys are just pretending, the pre-tension hides any true feeling, though they really, really do try to achieve it. Their attempt is praise worthy, but that is all.
    At least the Kings of Leon have balls, imagination and a life to sing about.

    Its not tall poppy syndrome to recognise a lame duck.
    Go listen to The Checks to experience some real talent and integrity in a young band verses the drab reality of industry investment.

    Excellent review, spot on!

  13. Ok, I thought lets not be too hasty. Often when I watch a bands video of a song, it can open up the songs meaning and deepen the feeling the song might convey, bringing the words a personality etc… so I went and checked out there videos.

    Unfortunately they simply conveyed the same lack of luster and lack of personality, maybe as the videos where trying to convey something about the songs that just isn’t there in the first place.

    But really it was the same thing, lots of money aimed at something with no purpose, no message, conveying nothing.

    You don’t need money or big production to convey ones energy and spirit.

    I say go back to the incence on the drums and be silly, not a boring imitation of something they are not, ie Kings of Leon and Julian Casablankas.

  14. i dont think they take themselves too seriously? imet them and they are pretty relaxed and jokey guys notafraid to take the piss out of themselves and have a laugh. maybe they are leaving the wrong impression on you guys but i guess they didnt makethe album to please everyone. i read an interview online that they had their songs changed to be more radio friendly so maybe thats where some of that creativity went out the door? maybe they havent found their voice yet? sometimes it takes bands years to figure out what they are all about.
    jarad you had some valid points (much better than the reviewer who obviously takes himself a bit too seriously, but i just think people are being way too aggressivly opinionated on here im not a huge fan of ther singles but the album i think is great and they are powerful and hard hitting live. remember they are young guys fresh out of high school on their first album, but everyone is acting like they are some hyped up band on their third album and the sun shines out their ass or something. there will never be a band that everyone likes
    they are what they are take it or leave it just relax everyone

  15. WTF oi this album has been one of the best pieces of indie rock music nz has ever had especially with how much younger they are than other bands they could actually be way better.. your reviews suck. everyone who agrees with this guy obviously needs to move into the 21st century this is exactly the type of music that relates to youth and there stage performance is amazing they can only get better

  16. “Byron’s pointed about The Beatles is ironic: they were a band who weren’t afraid to be original, to go against the grain”

    That’s right Gary, unlike the Earlybirds debut, the Beatles first album was completely original. Well, apart from the fact it was about 50% covers…

  17. oh and FYI (thats for your information if you oldies cant keep up) you obviously havnet even listened to the album as the lyrics are NOT ‘im feeling lower than low’

  18. Interesting review. Clearly the wrong reviewer of this sort of music, as this is one of the best NZ albums I’ve yet heard, able to stand alongside any number of international acts. Lyrically, its a bit naive perhaps, but sonically astounding. they deserve all the plaudits they can get. 9/10 from me. Not since Glasvegas debut have I felt this about a debut album.

  19. Gary I dont understand why you wrote this. This is not a review. Of course your opinion is as valid as mine. But you are here to review. This is you having a rant against Brendan Smyth and NZ On Air. You dont like the band. Fine. You dont like the system. Fine. You dont like the album. Fine. However you dont even produce an argument here.

    You take simple potshots at NZ on air, on the singers name for gods sake, is that a music review of substance? I mean really Gary, in your profound words, “gee, where have I heard this before.” Then when someone comments and disagrees you ask are they friend or family. Ha!! Very good Gary, you won that argument.

    I wont tell you my feelings on this album. I will tell you that your “review” is transparent and meaningless. Trying to do damage to a young band is not the right of a 2 bit “reviewer”.

    CONTENT = 0

  20. First up, I’m not a fan of this album having recently been given a copy to listen to (If you want some decent NZ indie, try Cut off your Hands). However, I question whether we as tax payers wasted money here.

    I’ll admit I know little about how the funding works, but surely NZ On Air has to take risks in awarding money to bands trying to make an album? Surely they don’t know what the result will be of their investment? If you only gave money to the people creating great music, wouldn’t we stop seeing new local music? I for one think we need to invest in our up and coming musicians, who knows what these boys will go on to do…

  21. Woaaah someone hasn’t taken a crap for a few days..
    I got this album last month for my birthday, and it
    was the best! Ever since then I havn’t been able to
    stop listening to i. But hey. Everyone’s entitled to
    their own opinions, but geez ‘Gary’, if that’s even
    your real name.. dont you think that was a bit harsh?
    They’re still young, but yet so full of talent. Their
    songs are upbeat and exciting and relates to an
    audience of their age, aka us late teens and early 20’s!
    I suggest you go take a crap now, and release all that
    anger into the toilet.

  22. Complete load of bullocks! They are amazingly talented and my favourite band! They are doing extremely well especially for guys their age!

  23. wow .. your such an arse. Youre being rude about something you know nothing about and excuse me for sayingso but you must be an old freaking bag because this band has done great for the 16-28 age grou. Also they are fantastic live but seeing as how pessimistic your reveiw was I dont think you would have even bothered to give them a chance. If you actually tried to be optimistic rather than this very negetive person you might see the upside to the band and what they have to offer.

  24. Not having much knowledge of current NZ music I hadn’t ever heard of these guys before stumbling upon Garys review. I’ve had a look at a couple of youtube clips and must say the review seems pretty spot on. As for public money being invested in bands like this I can see the logic – they’re pretty,look like a boy band and they sound very much like any of the mainstream commercial rock bands out there – Coldplay, Killers et al. Perhaps seem as a good punt for export revenue. Still it is rubbish and I can see why teenagers would like it! Some of this criticism is a little unfair on Gary who after all has been writing about music for 30 years (if I’m right) and surely should be allowed to call lame derivative music what it is?

  25. Who is this Gary Steel guy, pompus sitting in his article slaming young musicians.

    I have heard this album and it is no where is league you are making out. I’m nutural on the album and it does some really goods songs. At the end of the day it comes down to personel preference your comments are a little below the belt. If thats what you got to do to get your name out there as a reviewer then by all means keep it up.

    Maybe you (Gary) shouldn’t review music, not your specialty, more an embarassment of not knowing what you are talking about.

    Bad day was it? Me thinks someone thinks they are more sophisticated than they are.

    Cheap shots….

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