If you’re looking for a band that embody everything hardcore punk should be, then you’re looking for Birds in Row. Sonically, they’re fearless. Lyrically, they’re as poetic as they are recusant. And live, they’re a ruthless force, matching the power of their music with boundless, must-see energy.
After debut album You, Me & the Violence sparked listeners’ imaginations, 2018 follow-up We Already Lost the World was an unyielding inferno of brazen ideas. Metal Hammer UK called it “intelligent, poignant art,” writing that “this downward spiral changes pace and weight at every turn.” It screamed for mutual respect in a world of increasingly extreme political divides, and used the vehicles of punk, post-hardcore and post-metal to carry its cries.
Now comes Gris Klein. Birds in Row’s third full-length album is their most genre-bending and timely declaration yet. “Water Wings” opens, its scraping guitar strums a ticking clock, counting down to the inevitable barrage of hardcore to follow. “Noah” revs up over its six gargantuan minutes. Its singing slowly spirals into apoplectic screeches. “Trompe l’oeil” is half folk, half punk, and “Winter Yet” has no qualms about busting out seismic metal guitars at its climax. It’s an amorphous beast of an album: always unpredictable, but never out of character for this creative collective.
Gris Klein’s lyrics were sculpted by the Covid-19 pandemic, eloquently summarizing the cruel and sometimes nonsensical nature of mental illness. “Trompe l’oeil”, for example, sings, “Most of the times I feel lonely are when my friends are around.” “This is the exact moment where you should feel like you’re surrounded by people you love and you’re not alone,” the band add. “It asks, ‘If I can’t feel loved in this specific moment, then when can I feel that?’”
Gris Klein is a portrait of a world enduring its most chaotic era in a generation. Yet throughout, the Birds in Row manifesto is the same as it’s always been: love each other. “We really want people to know that they’re not alone, and that they can count on each other,” they say. “The way we treat each other is political. It’s OK to trust each other. All the movies about catastrophes show people turning against each other, but that’s not what would happen. When people are in the shit, they help each other. That’s what we’re trying to transmit with this record: hold each other’s hands.”
Not even a world-shaking pandemic could damage Birds in Row’s invention, compassion and brutality. Now three albums in, they remain the model portrait of punk.