A hidden gem in his pantheon, Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for the Alan Parker film Birdy is at the same time one of his least known projects and one of his most satisfying. The movie wasn’t a huge hit, and since Peter’s own snail’s pace work ethic meant that it wasn’t released until well after the film had left theaters, the album has gone largely unnoticed.
The argument could be made that since it consists of what its artist acknowledges as “recycled music with no lyrics”, it’s nothing more than a remix album. But that does it a disservice. True, most of the music originates from various songs from his last two studio albums, but for the most part, various textures are extracted to deliver a completely new atmosphere, resulting in a different effect. The track titles state the most obvious origins, but it’s still fun to pick out some of the more obscure sources.
“Birdy’s Flight” is used to great effect in the film, using a remix of the latter half of “Not One Of Us” for a wonderfully energetic accompaniment. Likewise, “Under Lock And Key” uses themes from “Wallflower”, itself a song about imprisonment, to illustrate the plight of the key character, both in the present and in flashbacks.
Even without seeing the film itself (which brings still another perspective to this music) it’s possible to be transformed to another place by just the music and titles. “At Night”, “Quiet And Alone” and “Slow Water” are ambient yet melodic tracks that show how easily Daniel Lanois was able to go from working with Brian Eno to assisting with this album. “Dressing The Wound” appears to be a non-recycled composition, its gentle piano setting up some trademark wordless vocals. Even “Slow Marimbas” would go on to be a feature in live performances down the road.
Due to its non-rock nature, Birdy is not for the casual listener, but fans of his oeuvre will enjoy it, partially as a stepping stone to his next project, and also as a precursor to his next work on a soundtrack. It’s a wonderful album for contemplation, particularly at night.
Peter Gabriel Birdy: Music From The Film (1985)—4