We’ve talked before about the inherently forgiving nature of the vinyl format, and how those pops and hisses can hide a multitude of sins. In this case, Night Birds gain a lot of power from vinyl. Listening to this band via earbuds or laptop speakers is not the way to go. Initially, I was worried that their new LP on Grave Mistake, Born To Die In Suburbia, had some audio issues while streaming it at Bandcamp or listening on my iPod, because it sounded … thin.
The fact of the matter is that the surf rock aspect of Night Birds’ sound means that you really need to play this through stereo speakers. This is a band that benefits from something that allows nuances to shine through. I know what you’re saying: “They’re writing songs about Mick Foley. Where’s the nuance in that?”
Well, to begin with, shut up — “Maimed for the Masses” is fucking great. Next, listen to “Nazi Gold” as a streaming track, and it’s a huge wash of sound. If you throw it on a stereo, you still get that wash, but it’s as part of the song, rather than the entirety of it. You can hear these fantastic changes in tone and pacing in Joe’s bass work that don’t otherwise come through.
Think of it as the difference between a white noise machine and actually sitting at the beach. In one, you’re just hearing the noise. In the other, there are gulls, boats, people — in one case, it’s a decent-enough reproduction, whereas with the other, it’s an actual experience.
Other notes to recommend a physical copy: the lyrics on the insert sleeve are handwritten and loaded with really explicit and violent pictures of people getting their dicks cut off. You can’t see that via a digital download. Additionally, you don’t get the coolness that comes with ending one side of a record with a dirgelike anthem such as “Nazi Gold,” and then flipping it over to get the frantic surf workout of “Silver Alert.”
Come to think of it … gold, silver — that’s fucking clever. And that’s to say nothing of kicking each side off with an instrumental, and ending each side with a track with “gold” in its title. There was some serious thought gone into sequencing this record. It’s not just “punkpunkpunkpunk.” I mean, there’s nothing wrong with this, but for chrissakes, man — this is a record that I put on the turntable, and from the first notes of “Escape From New York,” I was rocking back and forth, anticipating each and every chord change, trying not to jump around too much and make the record skip.
It’s been a long time since I’ve so thoroughly enamored of a band, but Night Birds hit all of my musical buttons. You’ve got catchy choruses in excess, a unique sound (seriously, you know a Night Birds song within three seconds of dropping the needle on any one of their tracks), and yet, the band still manages to surprise with every release.
Much has been made of the slowed-down tracks on this record, like “Nazi Gold,” but it’s the dual shouting on “Villa Obscura” that really grabbed me. It’s a basic track, but the force behind Joe and Brian’s teamed-up vocals really make this song pop out of my speakers.
Most everyone seems to have reviewed Born To Die In Suburbia immediately after the stream popped up on Spin’s website. Having gone to the trouble of ordering the limited-edition vinyl, I figured I’d wait until my physical copy showed up in the mail. Well, there were pressing plant delays and so on, so it didn’t show up until this week.
That being said, I’m glad I waited. Alex at Grave Mistake was cool enough to get me a download of the album before I left for Seattle a couple weeks back, and I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop on planes, working out, and everywhere ever since. But — and I’m fully aware of the elitist nature of this statement — vinyl’s the absolute way to go with this release.
The limited-edition screenprint covers sold out in about 20 minutes, but there are plenty of standard copies left in the Grave Mistake store, where you can also pick up package deals, if you’re late to the Night Birds party.