Sunday, July 14, 2013

By the Twang you will know them...

There's only one way I can connect Night Birds and True Widow- the use of reverbed twanging guitars.

That's out of the way, then. Yes, I have been listening to new music this week, and the two most exciting releases are True Widow's Circumambulation and Night Birds' Born to Die in Suburbia.

Since I'm literally listening to it as I type, I'll start with True Widow. To imagine their sound, I want you to think about the moody, yet melodic part of say, a Kylesa song. Now, add a massive dose of the Black Angels' styled fuzzed out neo-psyche. Now slow the whole thing down to a latter-day Swans crawl- not quite to an early Swans, or Godflesh pounding, but still, much much slower than pop music. There, you're in the area. Twang up the guitars a bit- think Mazzy star and Cowboy Junkies. Male and Female vocals, but not doing either the cliche of harmonies or of call and response. It's more neutral than that- it's more-or-less, sometimes the Dude sings, sometimes the Chick, and sometimes both do.  Now, I know all that is a lot of musical hairsplitting. Partially, I do it because it's funny to me, and I need to laugh. So, in a more metaphoric, less comparative fashion- True Widow sound like Texas- but not the Southwestern one. The Texarkana one. As a matter of fact, there was a pretty good comic book, long ago, called exactly that- Texarkana, and their music would make a great sound track to that comic book. Since that's a bit obscure, let's go with this- how's about a more Western version of Swamp Thing. Actually, any one of those semi-occult southern gothic comic books from the 1970's would do- Ghost Rider, Swamp Thing, some of the EC comics stuff. Basically, the edge of the Swamp at night time type thing. Something misty, and just on the edge of creepy. They call what they do "Stonegaze"- meaning that it's half way between Stoner Rock, and Shoegaze. There's some merit to that. Think about the creepiest moments of Desert Rock, like Thin White Rope and QOTSA. Now, stretch that out. You end up with something not so different from Slowdive, don't you? So, yes, I get what they mean, but I think the closer approximation is latter-day Swans. Yes, that's high praise. So, listen to them, and decide for yourself.

Then, There's Night Birds.  They're much more Brooklyn, hence much more hipster. But, soundwise, they are Orange County, around 1983. Which is to say- Surf Punk. Very, very surf punk- as in they owe Agent Orange a very lot. If you were to argue that you should just listen to Agent Orange, instead, I wouldn't try to dissuade you. Agent Orange is a better band, in every way. Still, Agent Orange puts out what? A record every decade, now? So, I think it's OK for Night Birds to fill in the gap, but make no mistake, they sound absolutely like Tony Cadena ( Adolescents) fronting Agent Orange. They have the good sense to start off the record with a cover, and an instrumental- just like Agent Orange would do- and even the choice of song is perfectly Agent Orange- a cover of the opening credit theme of "Escape from New York". Then, they give you the title track. No waste, straight to the point. just like Agent Orange. From there, we go to hardcore track after hardcore track- but it never grates on the ear because they learned the lesson well- at this point, doing Hardcore is an exercise in formalism. What's important is not to innovate, but to inhabit those moments that drew you into the desired form, as perfectly as you can. So, they're doing a "greatest hits" version of early to mid 1980's OC hardcore- going heavy on Agent Orange,and  Adolescents, but not forgetting DI, TSOL, China White, and the Vandals. This isn't the post- Bad Religion smoothed out "OC sound" pop punk- this is the Orange Curtain from before that- the stuff that I like. They could have played at the Cuckoo's Nest, Safari Sam's and Fender's ballroom. No way they would have go to Madame Wong's, or the Fleetwood- they're too classy for that. Maybe at the end, they would've played at Raji's - and broken up by 1992. Since I'm describing a world I'm pretty certain you have no clue about, you really should hear Night Birds because it will give you a good window into what made the early 1980's so special in southern California....

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