reviewed Night Birds in 2011, they were a relatively new band just getting ready to release their first album. And here they are today, ten-year-veterans of the punk scene and in my book still the best punk band going. Out today on Fat Wreck Chords, Roll Credits is Night Birds' 4th album. Or is it? This is a release inspired by some of the classic 12-inches from the heyday of hardcore (the band mentions Negative Approach's Tied Down and Minor Threat's Out Of Step in particular). Running just a little over 17 minutes, Roll Credits is shorter than Husker Du's Metal Circus but considerably longer than Circle Jerks' Group Sex. So is it an album or an EP? The math is not helping me! Let's just call it a mini-album and be done with it!
So what do the mature, ten-year-old Night Birds sound like? Thankfully, they sound very much like Night Birds! I suppose we'll have to wait until at least the next record for Night Birds to go crossover thrash or post-hardcore. Roll Credits is a little bit of everything that the band does well. Bookend tracks "Pull The String" and "Roll Credits" are first-rate surf instrumentals (discerning ears will recognize the returning presence of Mike Hunchback on guitar!). "The Day I Beat My Brain" can best be described as "vintage" Night Birds, while "White Noise Machine" recalls the breakneck hardcore of the band's most recent album Mutiny at Muscle Beach. Given my personal tastes, I'm quite partial to the dark humor of "My Dad Is The BTK" and the punk/powerpop leanings of "Radium Girls". The latter, along with a terrific cover of Suicide Commandos' "I Need A Torch", demonstrate an emerging pop sensibility in the band's sound that might surprise people. But don't for a minute believe that the band has lost its edge. "Onward To Obscurity", the album's first non-instrumental track, is pure power and fury for all of its 127 seconds. Jerry A from Poison Idea sings backups on this one, and no doubt he hears in the music of Night Birds something near and dear to his heart. I love the lyrics to this song, which poke holes in the bubble of self-importance that so many people live under. And on the subject of great lyrics, "White Noise Machine" is perhaps the most insightful and dead-on response I've seen from any band to the political machinations that have normalized bigotry in modern America.
Whether you call it a mini-album or a 12" EP, Roll Credits is an inspired return for Night Birds. I like that it leaves me wanting more! These guys took some time away, and now they've come roaring back with energy and focus. This release gives me a little of everything I like about Night Birds, plus a little more I was not expecting. I always take record label one-sheets with a grain of salt, but I 100% agree with the line about Night Birds being at the absolute peak of their powers. There is much great music yet to come from this band. But if Roll Credits is indeed Night Birds' Damaged, let's hope that doesn't mean we have to wait three years for the next record!