It’s getting tough to find new things to say about Night Birds. They’re as great as ever with third LP Mutiny at Muscle Beach, it’s just that the sound hasn’t changed all that dramatically from day one. Album #3 is supposed to be when they go all avant on us.
Their career has filled out nicely, with textural differences and a bunch of nuance from start to now, but the core remains the same: ‘80s SoCal hardcore fused with a horror-movie theme. It’s paranoid, highly anxious energy that keeps pummeling over a subtle fear of the unknown—in this case, that unknown is slowing down. Mutiny is twelve songs and 25-minutes long. That’s not to say it never lets up, rather that whenever the songs turn toward a melodic wind-down there’s an almost uncomfortable quick jump back into spastic energy. They can’t sit still even when they want to; and that’s why it’s so good: because, try as Night Birds will, it’s high octane, pedal-down from start to finish. The key is that they can throw in those changeups making it move forward instead of in circles.
Starting with the rager “(I’m) Wired,” the album mixes vitriol and spite with a pent-up and seething frustration. The furious drumming leads the charge and the guitar takes it in new directions. Brian Gorsegner’s vocals spit and snarl over the top. In “Lapsed Catholics Need Discipline” (one hell of a title) it captures one of the best shout-out melodic choruses in recent memory, the kind of sing-shout that leaves one hoarse but without the cookie monster effect. Later on, “King Kong” is one of the hookier jams on record. It features a stompy irregular beat just like its namesake that, now and then, abandons chaotic destruction in favor of campy fun, calling out:
Everybody wants power
Everybody wants fame
Everybody wants money
Bah bah bah bah bah
It’s mostly brutal and rough but also joyous and self-aware. That transition between harsh and positive repeats throughout, keeping the negativity from getting overbearing with the surf songs that pop up every now and again. The band is, in no way, a surf rock band, but they mix in these tones to give as upbeat vibe to counter the anxiety. Mutiny at Muscle Beach riles the nerves but without any foreboding doom. Instead, it’s got a cathartic feel that’s conversely fleeting and in the moment. As “Left in the Middle” sings out “There’s no one left in the middle” at the album’s close, it’s both a memorable hook and pissed off nihilism: a frustrated call of resignation that begs for real action. That first action should be hitting repeat and turning the volume dial clockwise.
8.5 / 10
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