Night Birds "The Other Side of Darkness" Grave Mistake Records
The first time i heard Agent Orange, it was from a friend the lent me Agent Orange "This is the Voice", Dag Nasty "Field Day", and Descendents "All". He was a best friend and we skated everyday. But he was 4 years older than i was. And i wanted everything to be Sick of It All or Slapshot. Murphy's Law was the lightest i got. Well years later i fully embraced Descendents "Milo...", "Bonus Fat", and "IDWTGU". BUt to this day, "All" bugs me. And while "Wigout at Denko's" is awesome and "Can I Say" is a classic that i blast frequently, i will never go back to "Field Day".
All that said, Agent Orange i nnever went back to until about 2 or 3 years ago. And i knew i missed many years of joy that could have had listening to "Living in Darkness". I have not returned to "This is the Voice", but i get it. I also have spent the last decade amassing an intense fondness for surf and garage. And if you can relate to that, then you need to hear Night Birds. This band is refreshing and intense.
Night Birds play dark, frantic surf punk. Yeah it's catchy; but it is even more than that. Cynical lyrics of human error are screamed over lo-fi beauty. Noise fills your ear, dragging you into the chaos of the frenzied beats. Deep, low drums bounce over the thin metal scrapings of taut punk guitar riffs.
Here we get the inverse of what someone would envision when they hear "surf music:. No sun, no beach, no pastel or neon long shorts. The foreboding doomed tunes project images of a cold, isolated east coast winter. Take "Can't Get Clean". We can hear the familiar bouncing surf beat; when stripped down, you could imagine some bopping blondes in polka dot tw pieces and leis, alternating crossed arms and fists in a dance. But the ominous "Ahhhhs" and dismal twang and desperate cries of the vocals; paired with "i wash all day, i scrub all night...but i can't get clean", skew our fantasy to a dark image.
Take the surf movies of the 60s and then picture the B-Movie monster movies of the same era. This is the Nights Birds. The group exist to reflect the wrongs and exploitative results of human greed that those films dictated. Atomic mishaps now come in musical form. Instead of wasting days in horizontal paralysis as the Pacific Ocean laps against your bronzed feet, "Landfill Land" paints the landscape with the trash and rot of modern society. A pumping beat drives a wandering surf lead, each verse building to a chorus of climactic fury. The layers of sound culminate in a song that is impossible to resist. This is crafted to propel leather jacket punks to jump and spill their beer on you in the sparsely filled dive bar you have landed in tonight.
Every song is amazing and stands alone. Night Birds never slow their pace. The start of side B is the 1:22 surf jam, "Day after Trinity" and it is evil. Next we jump into "Hoffman Lens" which is reminiscent of early Descendents with the hypnotic guitar laid over the discordant speed filled strums and robotic drums and scathing "We'll all be living in a new third world". Feed back adorns the indulgent and way too relate-able "Sex Tape". For the despondent recluse, we finally have an anthem.
"The Other Side of Darkness" is a fantastic punk album. Original and invigorating in a genre that tends to repeat itself frequently. I am quickly ensnared by the giant octopus emerging from the polluted lake. Each tentacle grasping me pinpoints my insecurity, fear, paranoia, anxiety, self-hate, shame, impotence, and xenophobia (yeah, that's eight, bitch). The play on Agent Orange's classic debut, "Living in Darkness", allows Night Birds to wear their influences on their sleeve. All the while they can invert it to make it a bastardization of the same homage. This is east coast. We are disconnected, bitter, jaded, and weathered.
"Failed Species" summons low tom\nes and blistering beats balanced with a female "ahhh" melody, while allowing the misanthropes a sweet "i told you so"moment. Back on side A, "Neon Grey" (awesome title!!!) gives us the same speed and confusion drenched in feedback" "Born of Man and Woman" is as close to mid-paced as we'll get. It certainly holds a catchy beat.
I can not recommend this album enough. Depression and panic fit into the epitome of their aural equal. This is pessimism personified. So beware the evil and greed of man. But if that's what births Night Birds, well, i will raise my glass to the demise of this species.
FFO: Gein and The Graverobbers, The Briefs, Deep Sleep, Gas Huffer, New Bomb Turks (early), Misfits, Agent Orange, Smut Peddlers, The Bodies
take a listen