Night Birds know what we’ve all been scared to admit over the past 30 years: punk rock never got any better after 1985. Night Birds operate in a world where none of the various waves of emo ever happened, Warped Tour didn’t rise and fall, and the Shape of Punk to Come never came—And that’s just fine by me. Mutiny at Muscle Beach is the fourth full-length from New Jersey’s favorite trashy surf monsters, and their first for Fat Wreck Chords. It’s loud, fast, angry, and dumb, and it’s probably the best punk album of 2015.
Listening to Night Birds is like discovering a hidden hardcore gem from the early ‘80s. It wouldn’t be far off to imagine them on a bill with The Adolescents or Angry Samoans—and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Night Birds stealing the show. “(I’m) Wired” immediately launches the album into full-on fury, as the band tries to keep up with Brian Groesegner’s rapid-fire barking, and the breakneck pace carries on through “Life Is Not Amusement to Me” and “Blank Eyes.” Previous Night Bird albums have featured more variety in terms of tempo, but the band is at their best when they’re in fast-paced, ass-kicking mode. “In the Black/In the Red” features some cool surfy guitar from PJ Russo and a spastic yet catchy vocal performance from Grosegner, making it one of the Mutiny at Muscle Beach’s early highlights.
Of course, a Night Birds album would not be a Night Birds album without some pop culture worship, here in the form of “Golden Age of TV.” It sits well next to the bands odes to pro wrestlers and cheesy horror movies, and even includes the infamous “Stranger in the alps” quote from the edited version of The Big Lebowski. Just when you think the Mutiny at Muscle Beach is gonna let up on the title track, the band explodes from the band’s mid-paced intro into another rager, complete with background “Whoa-ohs” behind the chorus. “Son of Dad” is the closest thing the album has to a breather, and it still kicks ass.
“Miskatonic Stomp” continues Night Birds’ tradition of great instrumental surf songs and is a welcome addition, as the band has moved further away from their earlier surf-influenced sound almost completely at this point in their career. Album closer “Left in the Middle” actually offers a bit of a respite from the Mutiny at Muscle Beach’s super speed, but once again, background “aaahhhhhs” during the chorus and Gorsegner’s killer vocals elevate it into one of the album’s best songs.
There is seriously nothing I don’t like about this Mutiny at Muscle Beach. It’s 25 minutes of the best kind of punk rock. This isn’t a band concerned with stretching punk rock to its limits. Instead, the revel in its primitive simplicity. You can feel the fury and the fun, and in the end, those are the two most important aspects of punk rock.