But this night in particular was a daddy-daughter night, where I was hanging out with my six-week-old daughter. She was sitting in her chair, admiring her favorite thing in the world right now - Christmas lights - when I popped in Collected, the latest from one of France's best kept secrets, Bird In Row, and a funny thing happened.
While it was much harder than anything I've played for her previously - we usually stick to the Clash and Ramones, along with kid-friendly punk like Mike Park and Peelander-Z - when I looked over at her, she had drawn her attention away from the Christmas lights to smile and listen to the music.
OK, this wonderful moment alone, where my infant daughter and I connected over a hardcore record would be enough to make me love this band. But the truth is, there are a lot more reasons to love this band than just the approval of my wonderful daughter.
Consisting of the band's entire catalog up until now - their Rise of the Phoenix 7” and Cottbus EP, along with the previously unreleased "Phoenix" (the first song the band ever recorded) - Collected is a vinyl-only release from Vitriol Records, serving as a primer for anyone new to the band and leading up to their debut full-length on Deathwish Inc.
And it's an essential primer you're going to want to memorize front to back.
Collected opens with "Ace of Fools" and its solid, mid-tempo hardcore. It's not slow and sludgy or adrenaline addicted - it's as fast as it needs to be in order to present solid anthemic blasts of sound, with guttural vocals and an uplifting, riving sound that hits you deep. And even deeper beneath that is a guitar-fueled complexity that almost hints at what Thurston Moore might do, were he decide to go deep into the hardcore scene.
It sets a tone that is repeatedly resurrected throughout the album, but not one that gets played out. They mix up tempos and sounds with an instrumental complexity that shows that they play hardcore because they believe in it, not because it's the only thing they know how to play. "Among the Ashes" starts with a two-minute meander of harsh instrumental discord before slapping into another hardcore anthem, while "Colossus" is just a minute-twenty of fast furiosity that drops all pretense in the interest of just being good, fast and heavy.
It's difficult to pin a high point to this record, as their sound is always just mixed up enough to not get repetitive, and it blends some metallic crusty bits into the mix from now and then, but no schmaltzy emo elements. There are punk hooks, and melodic hardcore instrumentals. It can be fast or slow... but mostly fast and always interesting. "Orange" is another driving anthem with punching driving instrumental intensity that, but then along comes a track like "Word of Astaroth," which dips its toes in the sludge, but never grinds to a halt. From beginning to end, the music is pure and it's true, and it should gain notice, if not with Collected, then with their full-length. But now is when you could say that you "were into them back when...", at least as far back as this release, if not with its initial run. That's worth some level of cred, isn't it?
I haven't been this invigorated or excited about new hardcore music since New Tomorrow's We're Counting On The Youth. Like New Tomorrow, Birds in Row play the music like they live and breathe it. Full of old-school intensity flavored with an undying passion to make music that kicks you deep in the guts without failing to jab you on an emotional level as well.
And you don't have to take my word for it. You can take my infant daughter's word for it. Her unfiltered opinion is worth that of a hundred cynical music journalists.
Release Date - January 17, 2012