by Steve Yardley
Birdgangs is a band from Boston MA with a self-described sound of Surf N’ Roll and East Coast Rock. I have been their frumpy sound guy at breweries and bars, and took a liking to their rhythmic ingenuity, trebly twang, and cutting-edge lyricism. Plus, a few tequila shots post-show makes a band a bit more endearing. Their 2018 album, “Maximum Suction,” is a distracting, blow-job-like title, probably an inside joke or something with these cats, but don’t be fooled, their music is unbelievable.
“Hello” is a really disturbing introduction. It’s a simple thing to say, but wrought with complication. It sounds like a dystopian telephone conversation, a static circus rumbling in the background, and Jack’s voice saying – hello – hello – hello – in redundant frustration just to get a signal across to an unknown receiver.
For artists in this digital age, trying to communicate a message through technology can leave your voice distorted, unheard, shrill, and spindly. The telephonic dissonance is ear-piercing in this track, and the only answer to these hellos is a gigabyte monster, warbling, and antagonizing Jack before he finally hangs up. Desperately trying to get an answer, Jack finally ends the conversation saying, “I don’t know if you picked up.” All Jack is trying to say is hey, and I find his inability to communicate something so simple and harmless to be disturbing
“Hello” is truly the most difficult part for starting bands that have gallons of talent, yet no one seems to pick up the signal in this digital garbage heap. Trust me, Birdgangs has gallons and gallons of talent. It must be frustrating, but nevertheless, hello?
- You’ll Never Work In This Town Again
We get the classic Birdgangs sound in this track. The guitar work cuts like a spiny-rainbow with those vintage twangy surf riffs. Jack, the leader singer, has ditched the telephone voice. It is clear, pleasant sounding, and sincere with occasional vibrato. In this song, his voice is delivered in a calm and collected way with a tinge of tension. Instrumentally, it shrugs, plays cool.
The title of this track, “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again,” is pretty revealing of a conflict, possibly a blackmail. It’s commonly heard in the music industry by powerful sketch-thug talent buyers in the city. Lyrically, you can envision a manipulative, self-absorbed business criminal trying to grease a band. The story goes that Birdgangs bails on this guy like many others, raising the question in the chorus, “what did you think would happen?”
Thematically, we are seeing a pattern about the pressures of the music industry here, especially for a few young-guns trying to make it. It may not be a talent buyer per say, but it is definitely pointed at someone within the music biz. It’s easy to see that they are close to powerless by quantifiable industry standards, and need exposure just starting out, but won’t work for inept dirtbags or conform to industry expectations.
- Taxi Driver
“Let’s just get away from it all,” is a common dream of most East Coasters during the winter. It’s a popular sentiment like, “F*** all this snow.” The protagonist of this song leaves, and moves out to the desert. The drums, and bass punch. The tempo drives. The sense of this new culture seem apathetic, and uncaring. It ramps up.
The place becomes dangerous. It is a place where you can’t walk safely home at night so you trust a slick taxicab to get you home, and they take you far away from it. I can feel the exhaustion, and lack of peace permeate the song. It is emphasized by the fuzzed out, cackling guitar solo, short-circuiting into madness. Like many of us that venture far away from home, the lyrics cultivate a sweet nostalgia for the East, putting chains on your tires, and having your own car to steer.
This song is melancholy, reverb-soaked genius. My headphones sing with wobbling woozy guitars, straying from the surf sound, but keeping Birdgangs artistic ingenuity through rhythmic variance, and tonal experimentation. “Lorraine” is peppered with soft vulnerable vocal melodies, thin-breathed, and pure. Yet, you can feel Jack’s voice snarl. You can hear the pain seething, and also hear the acceptance. It is a song for underwear days after a breakup with all the anger and despondence that accompanies them.
Steve’s Final Thoughts
Birdgangs produces creative, cutting-edge surf music in the East with gripping honesty in the lyrics, surprising structural rhythms, and zinging guitar fingerprint. Although the East is known for small waves, this album is a colossal sound-tsunami, and a perfect example of what music in 2018 needs: fierce sincerity, innovative visions, and instrumental excellence. Fly on Birdgangs, fly.
“Sonic” Steve Yardley is a rock n roller. When he’s not attending shows, he’s cruising around in his Jammbulance, making it happen.