Whether you realise it or not, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard the work of Alex Neilson, the bandleader behind Alex Rex. Alex has made his name as both an acclaimed singing-drummer for hire, performing with the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Shirley Collins, and as the principal songwriter of acclaimed psych-folk outfit, Trembling Bells. As well as all that Alex has also found time to release three Alex Rex albums, culminating in last year’s well-received offering, Andromeda. After three albums, “shrouded in loss and loathing”, Alex has decided to take a different route on his upcoming album, Paradise, his most playful and freeing release to date. With that album due at the end of July, today Alex is premiering his new single, Scandalise The Birds.
A big part of Alex’s newfound freedom came from the restrictions that the world forced upon him, with the track written in early lockdown giving the band no chance to rehearse before the recording sessions. Rather than agonise over this ill fortune, Alex instead decided to make a feature of it, limiting the band to three takes and trying to capture that spark of an idea being formed. As Alex explains it, “to my mind this captures the songs at a vital tipping point – where parts are being discovered for the first time by musician and listener alike“.
On Scandalise The Birds, this approach manifests into a, “lost Celtic ballad”, a song that’s at once darkly majestic and a bombastic stadium-ready anthem. The track builds on a swirl of organ drones, accompanied by soaring roars of guitar and the lurching pulse of the rhythm section. Atop the musical backing the twin vocals, Alex joined by former Trembling Bells compatriot Lavinia Blackwall, howl out a tale of dying trees and bird induced paranoia as the lyrics seek to fuse imagery of the natural world with the inner workings of the human mind. This feels excitingly different for Alex Rex, a new sound, a new start and the beginning of something very exciting indeed.