Brian Warren doesn’t make it 20 seconds into Flies in All Directions before he claims “you heard I was a nice boy / well you didn’t hear it from me”. From there on out he is content to spend the album’s 13 tracks exploring his dark, druggy fantasies and awkward bouts of realism with an unapologetic, yet endearing sense of pride. As the muse behind Weatherbox, Warren continues to err towards the cryptic, packing Flies with dense storytelling and drawn out metaphors. When he erupts with clarity, it’s often unexpected (the chorus of “Radio Hive” for example) — sparking the lengthy album with lyrics that read like battle cries lifted from a stream of consciousness. It can get a bit messy, but given the requisite time, there’s a lot to appreciate in his narrative voice.
Over the course of Weatherbox’s seven-year existence Warren has been the constant string, gently leading the way through diverse releases both stylistically and personnel-wise. The Weatherbox that he presents on Flies is the band’s most calculated form, moving through tight, bouncy arrangements and lengthy build-ups with refreshing virtuosity. “Dark All Night for Us” starts as an almost choral march complete with group vocals that builds into a crashing bridge of angular guitar melodies and drum fills. Warren’s presence on the track is strong, but it’s the instrumental themes that guide the song through the final three minutes of crescendos, syncopation, and a charging outro under the lyrics “When I say home / I mean the planet I’m from”. All-in-one tracks like “Dark All Night for Us” and “Ghost Malls” give the album a journey-like feel, as melodies and lyrical themes disappear only to be reintroduced and focused on.
Although the overarching aesthetic is familiar, it’s hard not to call some of the work on Flies experimental, if only because of the way Warren integrates a variety of sonic styles to match his bizarre tales. On “Radio Hive” he sings, “I want to write the anti-hymn / something grim yeah / such a disgustingly evil song / that it makes the devil sing along”, over what is perhaps the most straightforward and accessible track on the album. The surface irony is clear, but lurking stronger beneath is Warren’s ability to use his lyrics to dig and reveal until there is nothing to find. He expresses his obsessions with odd thoughts, and matches each such lyric exercise with a fully explored musical background. It’s easy to imagine any number of “let’s see if this works” moments in the songwriting process, but for the most part he pulls them together wonderfully.
“Kick-Flips” is a pulsing track that pops along with flams and muted chords under the lines “My body is a bomb / I’m a big old bag of bombs”. It meanders and ebbs along with its catchy melodies in a way that unquestionably works. “Bathin’ in the Fuss” lays over a simple programmed drum beat before coming alive for a chorus in which Warren defends his band and work. As the tracks weave unique identities, the album as a whole plays like a coherent attempt to write with wide-eyed purpose.
After the album closes with the calmly picked acoustic closer “Love Me a Good Microcosm”, there is an overwhelming urge to hear the songs again. In some cases it’s because of the catchy, upbeat melodies nested in the arrangements. In others the replay value is spurned by the natural desire to decipher Warren’s wildly spun lyrics. One way or another Flies in All Directions is an album that sticks. Warren’s passionate and dedicated performances are the keystones that hold the songs together, and his brash confidence highlights the album. Flies is the next in a line of solid releases from the Weatherbox moniker.