by Mike Faloon
The other night I fell asleep convinced that Midnight Movies was first and foremost a declaration of the superiority of physics over biology. I was so sure of this theory that I opted not to get out of bed and scribble a note or three. It seemed so much like the one or two good ideas I get every year (if that) that I couldn’t imagine it evaporating on any level. What I recall is this: midnight movies—horror movies, in particular—are often examples of biology gone wrong. Mutant creatures running amuck, people acting on impulses best suppressed, and zombies, them worst of all, failing to acknowledge the most basic of biological principles: you’re supposed to cease operating at some point. Knowing that Night Birds bassist Joe Keller is a physicist I then deduced that the implicit message on this EP is that while biology can and does go awry, physics is a discipline on which we can rely. It made so much sense.
But now that theory is hazy at best (as the paragraph above clearly attests). With talk of substance crumbling let’s consider style. The Night Birds have it in spades. Midnight Movies might just be the best of the band’s four releases. The best evidence is the title track. Maybe, just maybe, another band could have cooked up a song on par with the first two minutes. Pretty doubtful given the historical record, but possible. The combination of blistering tempos and melodic surfy soloing is so difficult to pull off. Then you get to the final 15 seconds. The call and response vocals, the guitar lead, all capped off when the band punches out the climatic accents. It’s sublime. It’s my version of art because I know that bands moving at those speeds could easily derail and the Night Birds don’t, can’t, won’t. And while the all four cuts are really fast and the subject matter is clearly punk-related, I also think this is the first record wherein the band's surf elements slightly eclipse the punk elements.
So why the slight qualification above (“might be their best” rather than “is their best”)? Because I have a hard time separating the Night Birds releases (slight exception being the demo CD—a really good record but the backing vocals are cut from a different cloth). They blend together so well and the songs are so short. (They’re yet to go past the 2:29 mark on their 7”s.) Every time I set out to listen to just one record I get carried away and listen to them all.
Closing comments…The cover art is nauseating (which is exactly what they were after—why else ask Mike Diana to draw your record cover?)…Punk News lists the following bands under their “fans also liked” category: Ergs, Jawbreaker, Descendents, Black Flag, Clash. Don’t trust this for a second…Midnight Movies is a great record. Catch up with the Night Birds.
PS Jeff from the Ergs can do no wrong.