Words by Peter Quinton

You’ve got to admit, punk and hardcore music can be pretty formulaic. Whip together some fiery power chords, snarling vocals, propulsive drumming, and have it all clash together at break neck speed, and voila, you got yourself a punk song. But there’s an importance behind this simplicity that those who think punks are just lazy musicians take for granted: Punk is simple because it’s music for everyone. The formula exists so those needing an outlet to express whatever’s pissing them off – whether it’s political persecution, a broken heart, or even simply boredom – in an easy-to-pick-up yet highly expressive way.

But there’s another motive, one much more optimistic, that this formula nurtures, which is simply for the love of punk. And if I had to guess, I’d imagine that this is the category that Jersey natives Night Birds, who have recently released their second full-length album, Born to Die in Suburbia – would fall into. It’s hard to uncover any particular source of angst from any of the albums antagonizing riffs and incoherent rants, but I am left with one undeniable revelation: These guys can play hardcore punk as vicious and perfectly executed as any of their for-bearers, and they’re loving every minute of it.

Borrowing heavily from the savage, stripped down approach of early 80’s hardcore acts like Minor Threat and The Dead Kennedy’s, Born to Die in Suburbia is as archetypal a hardcore punk record there is in the 21st century. With 14 tracks and only a handful breaching the two minute mark, Night Birds keep their music as direct and economical as possible. The resemblance to their influences is pretty uncanny, as almost any moment from Born to Die in Suburbia can bring to mind various hardcore punk cliché’s like half-pipes and graffiti covered walls. But Night Birds manage to get away with this by fully embodying this classic aesthetic rather than just imitating it, and with an album packed with hyperactive cherry bombs like “Modern Morons” and “No Spoilers,” I’d imagine that Night Birds would have no problem fitting in with the chaotic early hardcore scene they seem to cherish so much.

Night Birds also master another often underappreciated troupe borrowed from their influences: Writing great, catchy songs. I’d hardly call Night Birds a “pop-punk” band – there’s just too much venom-spitting vitriol on Born to Die in Suburbia for that – but that doesn’t mean that the album isn’t loaded with catchy, power-chord driven punk. Songs like “Domestic Dispute” and “Maimed for the Masses” – which affectionately tells the story of pro wrestler Mick Foley’s brutal career – are some the most straight forward-yet-infectious hardcore songs I’ve heard in a while, and tracks like “Pretty Poison” feature such lines like “I’m not going back to a padded room / I’m going to a cold hard cell,” which might not mean all that much but are a lot of fun to chant with all the angst you can muster.

Basically, there’s a lesson that can be learned when spending time with Night Birds’ latest: There’s nothing wrong with adopting the blueprint left behind by hardcore bands of the past to fulfill your own love of punk, but if you’re going to do it, you must do it right. Phoning it in is not an option with hardcore, and to be convincing, you have to play with every ounce of energy and passion that you have in you, and for god’s sake, show some enthusiasm. This is why Born to Die in Suburbia, for all its predictability, succeeds in the end – it’s damn thrilled to be the album it is and measures up to a long held standard quite well. All you have to do is put it on and throw yourself in the pit to understand what I’m saying.

Night Birds
‘Born to Die in Suburbia’
Grave Mistake Records
© June 2nd, 2013



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