August 31, 2010 - Volcom
The world is naturally comprised of the high and low. Yet when it comes to culture one frequently encounters suggestions, implicit or otherwise, that the two are incompatible. That somehow it’s inconsistent to appreciate the sophomoric humor and juvenile antics of AC/DC or Beavis & Butt-head while enjoying the more heady, high-minded charms of King Crimson and The Daily Show. However it’s those very moments when the two come together that seem most transcendent, whether it’s South Park’s scatological humor amidst a withering social critique, or how Tweak Bird’s quaking bottom-end grounds their proggy art-rock predilections.
The Bird brothers, Caleb and Ashton, made their official debut two years ago with the somewhat unfocused Reservations EP. Like their prior effort, their self-titled full-length debut is notable for its conciseness. Were it not for the six-minute closer “Distant Airways” and the four-minute “A Sun / Ahh Ahh,” the eight remaining tracks would barely have last longer than the 17-minute Reservations. But this concision is actually one of the band’s stronger selling points. Though inhaling deeply from the stoner-rock bong, their hard-throbbing, fuzz-soaked anthems rarely cross the two-and-a-half-minute mark, limiting the mind-numbing repetition (a product of short-term memory loss?) that often afflicts such music.
The thick resin-caked grooves and heavy-lidded bottom-end provide ballast for the Birds’ vocals, which (as their surname implies) flutter about in the upper register, effortlessly harmonizing in the kind of complementary tones that come natural to brothers. Like their voices, the lyrical matter also prefers heights as they sing about heavenly bodies in the heart of outer space, taking a “Sky Ride” and “flyin’ so high, watching as the atmosphere goes by.” (Yeah, they definitely have a connection for crippy bud.) They even go Jethro Tull on “Flyin’ High” pulling out the rock flute during the mid-song break.
This combination of sludgy rumble and soaring, sweetly sung, psychedelically inflected subject matter produces an effect that satisfies both the autonomic foot-tapping desire for wall-shaking intensity and a head-lolling sweetness stretching toward something otherwordly and ephemeral. These impulses find their best expression in the album’s twin centerpieces, “Beyond” and “Tunneling Through.” The former features a vibrant tribal backbeat wedded to a fuzzed-out riff that with the primacy of old Mudhoney, but choreographed by Fu Manchu. Even better is “Tunneling Through,” which not only features hard-hitting riffage but the album’s best vocal melody, as the Birds demand, “Open your mind, we’re tunneling through/Blasting a passageway through.” It’s the type of blood-pumping track that makes you want to bodyslam the four walls around you.
Jazzy closer “Distant Airway,” which uses a saxophone as its centerpiece, works a steady throb before lifting off for a drifting atmospheric excursion that’s keyed to a cymbal tapping, finger-snapping mid-song swing before leaping into a climactic, wall-rattling sonic swell. It’s a bit indulgent, and not as sonically rewarding as the rest of the album. Brevity is indeed one of the best things about what the Birds do. But it’s still entertaining, and you can’t help but feel after ripping through the other nine songs in just over 21 minutes that they deserve a little self-indulgence.