Birdmonster

No Midnight

Most rock bands will open an album with a blustery, attention-grabbing tune that to an extent sets the tone for what lies ahead. But San Francisco's Birdmonster is refreshingly atypical, instead choosing to baffle listeners' potential expectations at every turn, shifting its aesthetic slightly with(in) every song.The band's long-awaited debut, No Midnight, kicks off with "Skeleton Suit," a track that surges like the early, thrash-ier Replacements but halts suddenly, making room for "Balcony" — which displays some of the soft/loud/soft dynamics of Mogwai. On the latter, a melodica sings sweetly from some gentle folk ether. "'Cause You Can" and "Bar in the Back of the Basement" have tantalizingly pensive, angular melodies the Soft Boys or XTC would be proud to call their own, the dual guitars ringing like jazz players playing Clash chords — then these Birds attack like the Minuteman at their most jovially pissed. Birdmonster's vocals are a tad rough, but in the best possible way, rich with restless zeal, and a this-is-our-chance-now enthusiasm I heard in early recordings by the Jam and the Mekons (reminding me what drew me to this "punk rock" in the first place). Touches of drollery keep things clear of didacticism or pomposity. No Midnight is loaded with crafty unpredictability, but you'll be having too much fun listening to it to end up bothered and bewildered.

 
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