No Midnight

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Like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, with whom they share a sonic resemblance, San Francisco's Birdmonster have opted for the D.I.Y. self-released approach for their debut album. Based on the results here, they may have an equally bright future. On first listen, Birdmonster are just another interchangeable cog in the new wave revival machinery, and the rubber band basslines and angular guitars sound like familiar retreads of the Strokes and Interpol. Upon a more careful hearing, though, they mostly sound like no one but themselves. Sure, the first single, "'Cause You Can," sounds like a lost track (and a great one at that) from Is This It -- but the understated use of banjo, cello, and melodica adds organic warmth to these songs that is missing from most of their icy new wave revival brethren, and lead singer/songwriter Peter Arcuni is surprisingly original, upping the ante on the wild-eyed schizophrenia of David Byrne and CYHSY's Alec Ounsworth by unleashing some memorably unhinged and desperate singing. Arcuni's songwriting is a consistent highlight, and his songs are full of artful, idiosyncratic details. The film noir storytelling of "Balcony" and the gothic horror trappings of the title track belie an English major behind the rock & roll bravado. Sonically it's all about fun, though, and the band is fond of the whisper-to-a-roar dynamics that the Pixies and Nirvana perfected. "Ice Age" starts out slowly and acoustically, and winds up somewhere just this side of frothing at the mouth, and that's a pattern the band reprises on several tracks. "The Bar at the Back of the Basement" adds some hoedown elements, with the banjo featured prominently, and serves as a fine cowpunk interlude between the more straightforward new wave tracks. Otherwise, these songs are characterized by frenetic energy, buzzsaw guitars, and over the top vocals. In short, they rock, and Birdmonster are off to a big, roaring, impressive start.

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