|photo by Brian Rozman|
You're dropped right in to "The Phantasm Ball;" pushing play on Super Birthday's new album feels akin to triggering an unlocking mechanism hidden in amid the creaky bookshelves of a cobwebbed cosmic mansion's lounge and being whisked away with great suddenness to dimensions of erratic possibility and wayward wonder.
Super Birthday channel the danger and intrigue of metal, the theatricality of glam-rock nocturnes, and the cerebral detachment of psychedelia. The way they stir and swirl their instrumental phrasings and intonations can spellbind the listener's senses, to where--if they close their eyes and allow the band's tidal sonic energies to draw them deeper--they'll likely feel as though they're on some kind of quest, a a strange trip, or a profound daydream's surreal reverie. There is a gnarly vibe about this album, but it's wound with precision. It's angular and mysterious, but it doesn't speak any language that you don't already understand.
For all the misfits out there who've had their minds melted by the horrors of humanity, this Detroit rock quartet tap into that tender lunacy and meld it into eerily beautiful melodies with gnarly tones and cathartic wails. Lead singer/lyricist Troy Gregory, who has always been a bit of a mad scientist in the realms of goth pop and rock mysticism, just put out an epic rock opera. But the bassist/songwriter seems to be possessed by some other kind of entity on the cover of the album, identified in the liner notes only as "Misty." Nevertheless, it's evident, here with Super Birthday's Matthew Lannoo (guitar/vocals), Vince Rodriquez (synths/guitars) and Fido Kennington (drums/vocals) that he's still resonating with an energy that's comparably supernatural.
But it's go so much of a groove to it, that it's never as obtuse or wobbly as Zappa; it's too cool to sound cult, or perhaps too logistical and philosophic to be freaky. "A skeleton key gets you into a skeleton club..." And while that suggests a "crypt," it's not cryptic. This album, be it through the standout percussive arrangements in "Cracked Mad and Crazy," the stunt-pilot-on-uppers sort of flightpath of the dueling guitars on "Phantasm Ball," the gong echoing over the ceremonial synths on "Ice Cream," or any other vaporous corner of the album suggests an invitation, an arrival, an acclimation to some new place, be it a basement or be it oblivion, you are, as stated at the outset, pulled somewhere fantastic but foreboding. Each musician brings so many colors, many of them neon, ultraviolet, or midnight blue, to the notes that they blend in their performances--evoking a wide-eyed sense of a we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore epiphany.
The album may be title, Abracopocus, means that you haven't been tricked by the magic, but that two disparate spells collided, and in the likely explosive sequence of their canceling each other out, another kind of consciousness opens like a portal. Consider it a rebirth. Consider it a rebirth party. A super rebirth party. That's why they invite you to a Church in a Basement in the Woods...it's a religious (sort-of) "revival." Only they're reviving you! And you're "learning" how to heal. It's deep, sure. But any listener can jump in and just enjoy the ride, if they'd prefer. No one has to think of it as supernatural, after all... Consider it "super-natural."
Super Birthday perform Friday, July 20
@ Outer Limits Lounge