It starts with a harrowing screech. The bone-chilling battle cry of a bird of prey. The first few seconds of guitar feedback on this debut let you know one thing: the Bitch Falcon has landed.
Staring at Clocks is the debut album of Dublin trio Bitch Falcon, who has aptly been described as a “dream-grunge” band. Sure, grunge has been done to death, but the band’s take on it breathes new life into the subgenre. The album feels authentic – a cut above many other modern acts who fall into the nostalgia-baiting trappings of both grunge and shoegaze. Rather than being the sum of its influences, Staring at Clocks is the sum of three individuals’ genuine creative energy.
The band explores the depths of this grunge-dream pop fusion pretty thoroughly on Staring at Clocks. “How Did I Know?” has the energy of a Pearl Jam on their debut, but successfully folds in the elements of 80’s new wave that Vedder and company failed so spectacularly at earlier this year. Both the title track and “Turned to Gold” see the band lean strongly into their atmospheric tendencies to deliver interstellar vibes. But not to be pigeonholed, the band hits on various other stylistic leanings, like with the punky banger “Damp Breath” or the steady alt-rocker “Test Trip”. Then there’s a song like “Martyr”, which goes both post-punk and alt rock.
There is a slight unconventional, though not unheard of, approach to songwriting on this album. Bassist Barry O’Sullivan’s playing drives most of the songs, basically acting as the rhythm guitar. He’s got an excellent, crunchy bass tone that plays well with the hefty drumming of Nigel Kenny. This rhythm section’s energy is unrelenting throughout the album’s 10 tracks.
Singer/guitarist Lizzie Fitzpatrick takes a nontraditional approach to both vocals and guitar. Her distinct vocals embrace aspects of both dream pop and grunge, though not how you expect. Her delivery is definitely too strong to be considered dream pop or shoegaze, but it does serve to add texture to the band’s lush soundscapes. Her vocals don’t take on the radio-rock friendliness that is often extracted from grunge either, rather, her raw emotion comes through to strongly convey the albums’ themes of anxiety and depression.
Fitzpatrick’s guitar work focuses on texture and serving the songs rather than taking center stage. Her meticulously crafted guitar tone results in both instant earworms (“Damp Breath”) and almost unreal sounds (“Staring at Clocks”). It’s also worth mentioning that Fitzpatrick did the very cool artwork, to put the cherry on top of things.
The trio’s approach results in an album that’s solid from front to back. Staring at Clocks is a thrilling debut. If you consider yourself a fan of dream pop, shoegaze, grunge, or alt rock, this album is worth a spin or twelve. While I’m excited to see where Bitch Falcon flies next, I’m happy to keep this one in my rotation in the meantime.
Bitch Falcon’s debut album Staring at Clocks was released on November 6th via Small Pond Records.
Best Tracks: Gaslight, Damp Breath, Staring at Clocks, How Did I Know?
Weakest Tracks: n/a
FFO: Cocteau Twins, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Siouxsie & The Banshees