I’ve been to Muscle Beach. It stinks of weed and there are little shops lining the beach, selling weed-memorabilia and stuff with Tupac’s face on it. But, at least, there is a skate park nearby. I can see why native Californians would rebel against it, but, to be fair, I was sucked in and bought a Disney-themed “Cali” vest and tourist jumper when I was there. If anyone can articulate frustration against consumerism and the idealism of the American Dream, then it’s probably Night Birds. They are in a band, yes, but they are also part of the daily grind. They, themselves, say that they do the band stuff for fun- not because it makes them any money. And that is where we find Night Bird’s new release, Mutiny at Muscle Beach.
The record opens with the fuzzy sound of a record needle, or maybe it’s the sound when you are searching for a new radio station on an old school radio, but then it immediately cuts to the super speedy punk riffs that Night Birds are known for. Screaming “I’M WIRED!” through the fuzz, you quickly are too. Was it Morrissey who once said that the perfect pop song should be 2:30 minutes? Well, this opener is 1:40 and Night Birds manage to get us going without the extra 50 seconds. The song, “Life is Not Amusement for Me,” suggests Night Birds would be irritated by my irrational desire to document every moment of my life and “Blank Eyes” reiterates the fact that the they have no desire to understand the self-obsessed world around them but want to call it out. “I’ve got nowhere to go,” yells vocalist Brian Gorsegner. As someone constantly being squished into the elbow of a businessman on the tube, I can relate. I suppose that’s the beauty with punk, and with Night Birds, it can indirectly be your fight that they are fighting because there will always be some aspect of their argument you can get into. I’m certainly into it, and it’s only been about 3 minutes since it started. Or, at least, it feels like it. SO. FAST.
“In the Red/In the Black” is my favourite song on the record. It is right in the middle of Mutiny at Muscle Beach and is really fast, full of tension and so, so American. I like when people shout in songs and the drums are quick. It is Night Birds at their best. The tone is kind of dark and unnerving, like Hex Dispensers, but you don’t feel like you are watching a 1940’s horror movie when you are listening to it. Again, it’s authentic. The music depicts a fear of modern life that one day we will all explode in stupidity and lack direction. It could also be the fear that Gorsegner is going to explode because his tongue is moving too fast or something. It’s the band’s first release on Fat Wreck Chords, and it’s clearly a good fit for them. They are on the verge of something on every song, building and building and building and then exploding right at the end. Even the silence between songs feels just as important, giving you a chance to calm down before they attack you again. If you are into closing your eyes and fist pumping really hard and fast, then you will already be a fan of the band, and if not, then they are still worth listening to. They are singing about stuff that affects everyone- living, and the bits of it that they think suck.
The title track is filled with different tempos, riffs, ooohooohoohs and even a half-minute guitar solo. But again, it ends in an instant. It’s fine though. Don’t worry- still more to go. In the song, “Off the Grid,” Gorsegner sings, “Well it’s a big machine and I’m a useless screw.” It’s a weird time to be alive- some people don’t matter, a lot of people feel like they don’t matter and don’t belong, and workingman Gorsegner is singing about it. It’s also a weird time to be a punk fan, as there are almost too many things going wrong. We might be just as disillusioned as Sex Pistols and Ramones, but it’s just that no one ever really writes songs about it. As I mentioned, Night Birds still have to go to work everyday. They sing about the stuff they still have to put up with in life. Songs like the ones on Mutiny at Muscle Beach should be in the charts. The songs should be getting heard to remind people that they should be angry and fed up with a lot of stuff. Where Rihanna sings, “Bitch better have my money,” Night Birds sing about how “everybody wants power, everybody wants fame, EVERYBODY WANTS MONEY” on “King Kong.” Fittingly, the song just ends with the Daria-esque “eugh.” Although, it is a gnarly, growling one, not the disaffected “eugh” of a teenager. It’s the kind of “eugh” you can quickly get behind.
By the last song of Mutiny at Muscle Beach, I need a moment. It’s all been so fast and, yes, that is what I like about punk, but I want more. They sing about how there is nothing left, but I wish there was. They sing about how there is no one that isn’t mainstream anymore. The band sings, “NOTHING’S LEFT” and it kind of sucks that they are right. That’s a problem with punk- it can all sound the same. People are rebelling against being in the ‘it’ crowd or part of ‘the society’ instead of highlighting why they don’t want to be a part of it. Understanding why not is the point that matters. It is point that can be changed and addressed.
I was super excited to review this record, and I’m writing this as it plays out feeling sad and a little angry. Night Birds probably wanted the listener to feel gutted enough to do something. They are definitely pissed off. I love punk music, but if I have any issue with it, its inauthenticity; however, that is not the case here. These guys live their frustration, which is why they are so good at getting it across. They are not rehashing the same nihilistic stances of the 1970’s and 80’s. This is anger and chronic irritation based on the problems of today. It’s so refreshing to hear something relevant isn’t it?
By Frieda Strachan
You can stream the whole album here: https://night-birds.bandcamp.com/album/mutiny-at-muscle-beach