CD review – Birthday Boys, Tin Head
– by Cole MacKinnon
No matter how many times they’ve seen and heard it all before, rock and roll fans have always had a place in their hearts for bands with authentic, sweaty swagger. Peterborough, Ontario’s Birthday Boys are aware of this; their latest EP, Tin Head, comes across like Steve Earle fronting The Hold Steady, occasionally joined by Jim Morrison at his drunkest/angriest. The four-piece has previously recorded at veteran noisemaker Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio, which is appropriate, because from the raw snarl of the vocals to the gritty twin-guitar assault, Tin Head is one ragged-assed record.
Birthday Boys want to give you vocal hooks and power chords (“Tin Head”, “Daughter’s Man”), but they have more to offer than just that; the slide guitar in third track “Devil in My Heart” ambles lazily like a desert snake in the dusty heat, and halfway through the song, a sax wanders onto the scene for a boozy, dirty dance. And then there are the lyrics: “Water’s all gone/We gotta run/We’ll be piss-drinkin’ freaks by the mornin’” turns to talk of a “blood-hunting bitch with fat, glistening teeth”. Even though these guys are younger and cleaner-looking than they sound, we’re all having a good time.
Bonus points are awarded for moments of pure rock and rol; some whammy-bar harmonics in the solo section of “Apostles” call to mind Heart’s “Barracuda”, and the wailing Les Paul licks in “Sleepin’ With The Bitch” are nicely reminiscent of mid-seventies Page or Perry. In the latter track, lead singer Jordan Mack weaves a murderous, vengeful tale, and the gnashed-teeth intensity of his performance is convincing and compelling: “When the sun goes down/I’m gonna come back with a shovel and hit the ground/Gonna take my man where he belongs/Yeah he’s sleepin’ with the bitch but not for long”.
Birthday Boys have stated that their goal was to create a recording that encompassed each of the members’ varied influences, yet still sounded like the product of one band, and they’ve succeeded in this pursuit. Tin Head manages to stay relevant in today’s indie-rock realm while tipping its hat to some hard rock and alt-country greats in the process.