The saying might go, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” but any critic who has sifted through dozens of CDs/movies/books/whatever will tell you that first impressions matter greatly. That’s why God invented press kits and photos — so we can weed out the people who don’t give a flying fuck from the people who are actually making an honest effort to be seen/heard/etc. And contrary to popular opinion, the bulk of us really want to hear something good, something that surprises us, something that makes us feel good about writing 500 words about it.

So when I bust open my editor’s package and look through the paperwork, the first thing to catch my eye is the photo of a ragged-looking Japanese duo titled, “Birthday Suits.”

Birthday Suits? That’s one of the worst band names I’ve ever heard. I’ve come up with better band names in 3rd grade, and all I listened to back then was Weird Al. Maybe the album title can provide some insight…

The Minnesota: Mouth To Mouth.

What the fuck does that even mean? Is this a concept album? About a river? Colons in titles are almost always bad news. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

I’ve gone from excited to “time to flex my atrophied writing muscles” to “I wonder what’s on TNT right now.” That’s what a terrible band name can do to you. It can make a writer want to watch Law And Order: Criminal Intent (See? Colons!). It takes me about another four hours before I come to grips with the idea of a deadline and keeping promises and the like. I put the record on, and it begins.

“This Is A Song” has a lot more bite than I expected from a band named Birthday Suits, rocking back and forth between post-rockish grinding and No Age-esque guitar/drum freakout. Okay, Birthday Suits; you have my attention.

As soon as “Table Talk” starts playing, my internal fun sensors turn on. This album is pretty great! Irreverent, dense blasts of tongue-in-cheek rock with equal nuances of surf and noise sprinkled in between. Electric Eel Shock is the mommy and Rocket From The Crypt is the daddy.

Hideo Takahashi’s first language is definitely not English. However, it’s not Japanese either! His first language is Rock And Roll! His disaffected cadence might be the result of self-admitted ESL apathy, but his cavalier delivery gives it that classic snarl and snark that you’d find from the likes of Jello Biafra or Rick Froberg. I don’t really care that I can’t understand what he’s saying half the time (“YES WE KIDNAPPED YOUR MOM/ YES WE DID IT WE DON’T DENY,” I think). It sounds awesome.

The Minnesota is a fun album through and through, clocking in at a succinct 21 minutes. Birthday Suits might have a terrible name, but their angular brand of blistering punk is no slouch. It’s the best one-chord noise I’ve heard in a long while.

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