Click to hear: “Jetlag”
You can think of Bird in the Rafters as a maudlin RattleSnakes. Like that local punk trio (which recently became a quartet), this trio has a guy and a chick who swap vocal duties and they play it raw and noisy. But the Birds lack the Snakes’ energy and creativity, and can get downright annoying. You can be excused for not thinking of them at all.
The trouble starts at track one of this seven-song release, “Old Trunks.” Echoed faintly by guitarist/vocalist Tony Manhart, drummer/vocalist Emily Serway delivers well over three minutes of sensitive, sob-your-latte lyrics over a brooding and repetitive melody before the tempo finally wakes up and Manhart makes a racket for a couple bars. Then it’s over.
“I never get to touch you / I never get to say / ‘I’m sorry for my madness / My slightly crazy ways,’” Serway sings. Only slightly crazy? I’m more than slightly bugged by that equivocation.
Moving on, the second song, “Scent of Lavender,” has the following problems…
• It’s called “Scent of Lavender.”
• There’s a section that sounds vaguely like post-Signals Rush.
• The rest of the song is just as lame.
“Renaissance,” on which Manhart’s in front of the mic, is more interesting. Bassist Roy Ghim kicks off its off-kilter beat and things progress into something resembling a Sonic Youth song, which is to say things start to fall apart and get ugly and there’s shouting. Not bad.
But this is followed by “Little Thing,” and Serway’s back in singer-songwriter open-mic mode. Unlistenable.
The title track doesn’t suck. I dig the extended intro, and Serway finally sheds her inner folkie and lets loose during the chorus: “Give me some caffeine / Give me some Dramamine!” There’s more than a pinch of Veruca Salt tossed in here and not enough variation to merit almost five minutes of your life, but it’s cool.
The last two numbers, “Birthday Song” and “Brick Wall,” also have redeeming qualities.
Blindfolded local music fans would be hard pressed to distinguish the former from a RattleSnakes song, what with the rough-textured riffing and Serway sounding more than slightly like Tara Bincarousky. “Brick Wall” has Manhart doing the Lee Ranaldo thing again, which is fine, though I prefer the stuff Kim and Thurston take the lead on.
Ghim, who also hosts an indie-rock show Tuesday afternoons on WMPG, is a relatively recent addition to the group. Jetlag sounds like the more sedate duo of Serway and Manhart starting to rock out more with their new pal. They should keep heading in that direction and leave the sensitive shit to the birds.
— Chris Busby
Bird in the Rafters releases Jetlag on Sat., June 13, during a show at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Winterpills, Computer at Sea, and Seymour are also on the bill. Tix: $7 (18+). 828-5600. For more on the band, visit myspace.com/birdintherafters.