Exotic Birds – Cleveland Synthpop (featuring some dude named Trent Reznor)

Exotic Birds
Dancing On The Airwaves
Have You Heard The News
The Meaning Of Love
This Must Be Heaven
Nothing Lasts Forever
Fighting Fire With Fire 

So who the hell are the Exotic Birds and why the hell should you care about them?

I’ll just cut to the chase, lest you skip this post completely from lack of interest. The Exotic Birds were one of the many bands that Trent Reznor was a member of before he decided to strike out on his own with Nine Inch Nails. And when you hear about the Exotic Birds today on blogs and on YouTube, it’s usually because of that fact. While that’s an interesting bit of trivia, I think that does a disservice to the rest of the band. Trent Reznor was barely in Exotic Birds after all, he only played keyboards on one EP (L’oiseau – the album I’m featuring tonight) and he wrote none of the songs.

The Exotic Birds was barely more than a for-hire gig for Reznor, the real man behind the group was Andy Kubiszewski. On L’oiseau he not only plays keyboards and sings, but he is credited as a guitarist, programmer, percussionist and even xylophone player in the linear notes. He’s the sole writer on four of the album’s tracks, with drummer Tom Freer getting a sole writing credit on one tune and a co-writing credit with Andrew on another. While the line-up to Exotic Birds changed a lot during its short time, Andrew remained in the group until he broke it up for good sometime in the early 90s.

But that was only the beginning of Andrew’s musical career. After he was done with the Exotic Birds he briefly joined The The as a drummer, before rejoining with Trent Reznor in 1994. This time he was the backing member in Reznor’s musical endeavor, playing drums with Nine Inch Nails on their album The Downward Spiral. Maybe working with Reznor’s industrial group gave Andy a taste for the harder-edged music, because just a couple years later he was with Stabbing Westward, the NIN-derivative act who gave us the uber-downer alt-rock hits “What Do I Have To Do” and “Shame” and “Save Yourself.” After Stabbing Westward decided to mope their separate ways in 2002, Andy went on to work with a few other bands before turning to production/songwriting work in 2005, oddly contributing music to t.A.T.u’s sophomore album Dangerous And Moving (which, by the way, isn’t that bad!) among other things. Today, Kubiszewski mostly does television work, composing music for Discovery shows like The Colony, Axmen and Monster Garage.

I said before that I’ve always thought that the lesser-known, more workmanlike musicians have more interesting careers and trajectories than the superstars and one-hit wonders, and I really think the Andrew Kubiszewski’s path of synthpop frontman to British alt-rock drummer to industrial drummer to eurodance songwriter to TV composer really proves that point.

All that and I never even really mentioned how the Exotic Birds sounded! Well, they weren’t bad. They definitely sound like a band that really doesn’t know what it’s doing, going after trends in music instead of trying to forge its own way. Some tracks are incredibly radio friendly pop numbers, while others have a slightly harder edge that might have played well on college radio at the time, kind of  Eurthymics meets The Cure meets InSoc (although not as good as any of those bands). It’s dated as hell, that’s for sure, but if I was Andy Kubiszewski I would be less embarrassed about “Nothing Last Forever” (which has a really great instrumental breakdown) than this.

Okay, that was kind of mean. Stabbing Westward had some good tunes too. “Shame” holds up alright, even if it takes miserablism and self-loathing to levels that NIN could only dream of. I mean, “I only see myself reflected in your eyes”? Pathetic perfection.

One Response to “Exotic Birds – Cleveland Synthpop (featuring some dude named Trent Reznor)”

  1. drewsbrews says:

    thanks for posting this! Saw Exotic Birds live a few times – once at Akron U (with Reznor), another time, they opened for someone – I’m thinking it was Erasure. I definitely remember Dancing on the Airwaves – we used to play this on air at the Akron U residence hall radio station (WRHA – 590 AM)

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