Alistair O’Brien is a Melbourne, Australia based musician who is usually seen in the band The Thod. But O’Brien stepped out on his own and released the solo project Who Fell on Their Head? this year. Who Fell on Their Head? is a somber and stripped back project that mixes the bluntness of anti-folk with the grooves of The Velvet Underground.
O’Brien went for a stream of consciousness approach to the lyrics on Who Fell on Their Head?. O’Brien’s delivery is nearly spoken word, which creates a feeling that we are inside his mind as he moves from one thought to another. Some songs feature the sound of pages turning as if O’Brien is speaking straight from a journal. “Waking Up Slow” is a prime example of stream of consciousness, as it begins with, “Waking up slow / numbers / numbers / kittens / mittens / laundry tumbles, spins.” Moments like this, though troubling and difficult to interpret, are still intriguing. They even highlight the more relatable proclamations found on the album, such as “Staring out vacantly / and the feeling just runs away / when you realize close bonds take years and years to form.” Overall, O’Brien successfully balances rambling with insightfulness.
The sound of Who Fell on Their Head? is lo-fi, repetitive and dreary. The tracks feature natural reverb, and the droning instrumentation acts as a pedestal for O’Brien’s words. On the downtempo tune “Bullet Town,” a simple drum beat repeats unchanged and noisy electric guitar whirs throughout. This style works well on the album until the final track, “Devil’s Ointment.” The song is four minutes of the same repetitious guitar progression. It’s a tense track that features haunting synth and ominous guitar. But it should have had words or been cut in half. After two minutes, it gets stale which is unfortunate because it has the appropriate atmosphere to end the album.
Overall, Who Fell On Their Head? is a captivating album. Its eerie folk-punk foundation is a fitting sound for O’Brien’s intriguing lyrics. He explores his mind through a stream of consciousness approach that makes Who Fell on Their Head? feel both unsettling and enlightening.
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