The Mynabirds aim to spark a fire under listeners’ asses with their highly political sophomore album, Generals. Singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn holds nothing back on what she calls, “both a protest record and a concept album.” Compared to her 2010 debut album, What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood, Burhenn’s sound is grittier than ever. Working again with her loyal producer Richard Swift, they master what many think is impossible and maybe even contradictory; they create a serious and intellectual pop album.
Generals starts off soft but strong with the powerful opening track, “Karma Debt.” In its first couple of seconds, Burhenn’s calm and sure alto voice commands your attention. She is rather persuasive as she croons, “I’d give it all/For a legacy of love.” The album rages on into “Wolf Mother,” a lyrically loaded gem that comes from years of pent-up political frustration. Driven by percussion, the track comes to a rocking, catchy conclusion. The single “Generals” is a revolutionary anthem that is blatant in its message; the people must stand up for change. With all of the stomping and clapping, she makes you feel excited and eager for action. The positive vibes keep flowing with dance-like beats and a righteous use of synthesizers in hits like “Radiator Sister” and “Disaster.”
The standout track on Generals is definitely “Body Of Work,” where the Mynabirds experiment with African melodies and rhythms. The echo in Burhenn’s voice sounds like an imitation of the call-and-response pattern that is so often seen in some cultures as a ritual or expression of democratic participation. As she chants, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you,” you can’t help but feel like you have heard the phrase before. Well, Burhenn is one smart chick; she quotes the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who believed that human existence was an individual experience. His quote seems fitting as she preaches that everyone is a piece of work and life is only what you make it. Encouraging and hopeful, “Body Of Work” can pick up any underdog’s spirits.
Generals comes full-circle in its last track, “Greatest Revenge.” As light piano starts, it is the closest tune to a ballad on the entire album. While she soulfully mourns the “American Dream,” listeners can tell that this is the last bit of her contained fury. She ends the album just as it started, with her passionate statement of sacrifice for a “legacy of love.” From the delicate pleas to loud protests, the Mynabirds’ Generals speaks for and to many that feel discouraged or angry about the world around us. With a presidential election coming up, this album could not have come at a better time.